Thursday, May 29, 2014

Louisiana's grand prix of political obscenity

In a state notoriously indifferent to the needs of its citizens and -- let's face it -- the idea of fundamental civic decency, Louisiana legislators have no problem with the short bus having to go up against Indy cars in the race for tax dollars.

Guess who won.

In the Gret Stet, it's a matter of the survival of the fittest -- and the richest. And state senators aren't shy about putting taxpayer dollars where they're not needed to make sure those who can fend for itself get an even bigger head start on those who cannot. But in a state where one former governor was known as "The Silver Zipper" before he went off to a federal penitentiary and a former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard almost became governor, the obscene is nothing to lose sleep over.

The Advocate in Baton Rouge reports on the Senate Finance Committee stripping funds dedicated to aiding the disabled as just another thing during a day in the life of the Louisiana Legislature. Which, unfortunately, it is.
As LSU battled for the SEC Tournament Championship on Sunday, the Senate Finance Committee was at the State Capitol unraveling much of the Louisiana House’s work on the $25 billion state spending plan.

Out went $63 million in cuts to contracts, state government jobs, overtime and technology expenses. Out went reductions to economic development programs. Out went some of the extra money for the disabled community.

Additions included $4.5 million for a Verizon IndyCar Series race at the NOLA Motorsports Park in Jefferson Parish. Gov. Bobby Jindal had committed to find the money for facility and track improvements.

“We’re taking money away from the disabled community and giving it to motor sports?” state Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, asked Sunday night as he thumbed through 47 pages of amendments.

The committee’s chairman, state Sen. Jack Donahue, jumped in when a Senate aide gave Claitor a vague answer about the funding being part of the overall plan.

“The answer to your question, Sen. Claitor, is ‘yes.’ Alright, any other questions?” said Donahue, R-Mandeville.

Claitor was the only committee member who voted against the sweeping amendments. On a vote of 10-1, the committee approved the changes to House Bill 1, the state operating budget for the fiscal year that starts in July. The bill now goes to the Senate floor for debate.

The state budget funds schools, hospitals, prisons and other public expenses. The House had to fill a number of funding gaps. Jindal didn’t include enough money for public schools or the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, also called TOPS.
OF COURSE, the NOLA Motorsports Park is a private facility, owned by a rich doctor whose family runs one of the world's leading builders and operators of offshore-service vessels for the oil and gas industry. If, as a lawmaker, you're going to be shameless, go big or go home.

Sadly, "go away" doesn't seem to be an option here.

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