Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who faces a recall petition, said in a television interview on Sunday that there is still time to stop a 123 per cent pay raise legislators gave themselves. Hours later his chief liaison with the legislature resigned.
Jindal, a 37-year-old Indian American, is the youngest governor in the country and has been mentioned as a possible running mate for Republican presidential candidate John McCain. He is a staunch conservative.
In an impoverished state notorious for shady deals by the powerful and the well-connected, Jindal was elected governor this year on a promise of cleaning up the government. He quickly won praise for pushing through ethics measures.
The decision of the part-time legislators to increase their pay from $16,800 to $37,500 — plus expenses — set off an angry reaction across the state. The recall petition was filed by Ryan Fournier, a former Jindal supporter, upset that the Governor is going against a promise that he would not allow pay raises for lawmakers.
If Jindal is against the raise, Fournier wants to know, “why won’t he veto it?”
During his appearance on CNN on Sunday, Jindal said: “We’re actually working with legislators to show them that this is wrong. There is still time to make sure this doesn’t happen. They can still sign affidavits to turn down this pay raise.”
Affidavits from legislators would give Jindal cover to exercise a veto. He had so far said he would not use his veto power.
If no action is taken by July 8, the bill will become law.
Forcing a recall election won’t be easy — the petition would need nearly 1 million signatures. But Jindal said he has learnt his lesson. The voters are angry, and the petition shows how “democracy works”, he said.
Tommy Williams, 65, who resigned as Jindal’s legislative director, told The Times-Picayune of New Orleans that the decision to leave was his and that he left on good terms. He did not offer reasons for his departure.
Fournier, a registered Republican, said he felt a responsibility to take action as he did not understand if Jindal is “against the raise, why won’t he veto it”.
However, the process to recall Jindal within six months is considered "tedious" and require nearly one million signatures.
Jindal pledged during his gubernatorial campaign last year to prohibit an immediate legislative pay raise.
Fournier said he would stop the recall if Jindal vetoes the pay raise bill before it becomes law July 8. With agency inputs