Nathan Stubbs

Local lawmakers disagree on rejected stimulus

by Nathan Stubbs

State Rep. Eric LaFleur of Ville Platte (who’s said to be jockeying for a U.S. attorney appointment with the Obama administration) fired off a letter to his legislative colleagues yesterday asking for a joint resolution to override Gov. Bobby Jindal’s rejection of a portion of federal stimulus funds. He’s now getting push-back from both Jindal and state Rep. Joel Robideaux, Independent of Lafayette.

Jindal has turned down $98 million in federal funds dedicated to an expansion of unemployment benefits. The gov contends these funds require permanent changes to state unemployment law that will continue to cost the state long after short term federal dollars
run out. In his letter, LaFleur contends that by rejecting these funds, La. taxpayers won’t be getting the full benefit of the stimulus plan, which they are helping to fund. He writes:

“If we reject these funds, Louisiana taxpayers will be paying to subsidize and support unemployment compensation in states such as California, where Gov. Schwarzenegger has already signaled his intention to accept the funds. While we may have different opinions on programs funded in the stimulus package, I think that we can all agree we want Louisiana tax dollars to remain in Louisiana, working for Louisianians and Louisiana’s economy.”

LaFleur also cites a statement from the U.S. Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, which he says indicates states will be able to change back their unemployment law after federal funds run out.

Gov. Jindal has responded noting that lawmakers will not be able to override his decision because doing so would require a law change that he will veto. Also, Lafayette state Rep. Joel Robideaux has also responded with his own letter to state lawmakers on the issue. Robideaux writes:

“Contrary to Senator LaFleur’s assertion, a news release from Senator Baucus and the U.S. Senate Finance Committee has no ‘jurisdiction’ over interpreting this provision and does not constitute a ‘pronouncement of the law.’” Robideaux adds that the Louisiana Workforce Commission has been in discussion with the U.S. Department of Labor about the issue, and is yet to receive any assurance that states would be able to later amend changes to unemployment law required by the stimulus bill. “Without such assurances,” Robideaux writes, “I believe it will be irresponsible to risk incurring long term financial liabilities for which we have no general funds to satisfy or would otherwise need to increase taxes.”