Gov. Bobby Jindal has vetoed a major piece of Mayor Mitch Landrieu's legislative success story — and cost the city of New Orleans another $3.6 million a year. House Bill 334, authored by state Rep. Walt Leger III, gave the city a permanent source of funding for the state's contractually obligated annual reimbursement for casino-related services provided by the city — a total of $3.6 million a year for police, fire, EMS and other services. The reimbursement is part of the casino support services contract, which is approved every year by lawmakers, but the money owed the city is not always forthcoming. Leger's bill would have removed the need for the city to beg lawmakers (and the governor) every year for money.
In vetoing the measure, Jindal said it would have taken $3.6 million a year from a special fund for teacher salaries. "At a time of declining revenues, we should be working together to increase our flexibility in the budget process to protect education and health care instead of increasing the portion of revenues that are dedicated," Jindal wrote in his veto message. The governor added he remains "open to other alternatives next session," which means the city is out of luck (and out $3.6 million) until July 2011.
Both Landrieu and Leger expressed profound disappointment — and surprise — at the veto. "On numerous occasions I discussed HB 334, the reasonableness of the proposal, and the importance of its implementation [with the Jindal administration]," Leger told Gambit in an email. "Commitments were made and clearly now have not been fulfilled. I am extremely disappointed that the city of New Orleans will not receive due reimbursement for the important services provided at and around the casino — services that allow the state to collect tens of millions of dollars a year."
Landrieu apparently is not giving up on the idea of getting money this fiscal year. "We're disappointed that the governor would veto this legislation," the mayor told Gambit. "But making good on the state's contractual obligation to pay these costs is not up to the governor's discretion, and we intend to collect what is owed to the city." — Clancy DuBos