In the face of recall petition, Jindal vetoes legislative pay raise

July 1st, 2008 - 1:08 pm ICT by IANS  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, July 1 (IANS) Faced with a recall petition, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal vetoed a bill that would have doubled legislators’ salaries but said lawmakers have “a right to be angry” with him for breaking his promise. Republican Jindal, 37, the first Indian American governor of a US state, said he should not have promised lawmakers that he’d withhold his veto pen. “Today I am correcting my mistake,” he said Monday in the state capital of Baton Rouge.

The surprise announcement two weeks after lawmakers approved the pay raise bill came after some infuriated voters filed recall petitions against the governor and two of his top allies in the legislature.

Jindal had earlier taken the position that he disapproved, but that he would allow the raise of more than 100 percent to become law lest they don’t support his reformist agenda. But it triggered the first wave of criticism in his six months as governor.

Breaking his promise to lawmakers could make them angry but he hoped they will continue to back his proposals, Jindal said Monday. “They’ve got a right to be angry with me,” he said. “I made a mistake in telling them I’d stay out of it.”

The bill by Democratic senator Ann Duplessis would have raised Louisiana lawmakers’ annual base pay from $16,800 to $37,500, making them the highest-paid in southern US and the 14th highest-paid in the country, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures. The bill gained final approval in the House and Senate by slim margins

Jindal, who has been mentioned as a prospective running mate to Republican presidential candidate John McCain, became a daily target for stinging attacks from editorialists, talk radio callers and bloggers, many of whom questioned whether the governor was being pushed around by the legislature.

Critics had also noted that Jindal made campaign promises last year to “prohibit” lawmakers from approving such a pay raise for themselves.

Two recall petitions had been filed against the governor. Others targeted fellow Republican House Speaker Jim Tucker, one of the governor’s top committee chairmen, Representative Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge; and a handful of other House Republicans.

Forcing a recall election against Jindal would have required petition signatures from one-third of Louisiana’s registered voters - more than 900,000 people - within 180 days of the petition’s filing.

Analysts said there was little chance of the recall petition succeeding, but it did dent the young governor’s reformist image.

Those who organised the recall for Tucker called off the petition Monday, while a July 7 rally to get Jindal to veto the bill has been called off as well.

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