Governor Jindal and proponents disagree over costs
On July 7, 2009, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal vetoed HB 781, Homeless Assistance and Prevention Act which created the first statewide Director of Homeless Assistance and Prevention, as well as the Interagency Council on Homelessness.
A July 7, an Associated Press report by Doug Simpson indicated the following:
Also Tuesday, Jindal vetoed a measure aimed at treating and preventing homelessness, even though he said he liked its intent. He said he vetoed it because it would have cost the state Department of Social Services over $656,000 over five years.
"I would prefer that the agency address these objectives with existing resources," Jindal said.
However, the Legislative Fiscal Office found that about half of that five-year total would have been federal stimulus money, not state money. The fiscal office said the price tag for the state would have been $314,000.
Louisiana State Rep. Walker Hines, sponsor of the bill, took strong exception to the Governor’s action. In his statement of July 7th, Hines indicated that the bill had been supported by the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops, UNITY for the Homeless in New Orleans, and the Governor’s own Secretary of the Department of Social Services.
The Governor’s action follows a June 23rd report from the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center that housing in New Orleans is now more unaffordable than in the recent past, one more contributing factor to metro homelessness. That report is described as follows:
Changes in New Orleans metro area housing affordability
This analysis reveals that in 2007 housing in Orleans Parish was less affordable than the nation, with post-Katrina incomes not keeping pace with housing costs, including insurance, taxes and utilities. These findings apply to New Orleans homeowners and renters alike. Renters in St. Tammany Parish also experienced housing cost burdens at a higher rate than the nation.
Based on 2004 and 2007 American Community Survey Data
The full statement from Representative Hines follows:
Statement From State Representative Walker Hines on July 7, 2009
I was just informed that Governor Jindal has vetoed HB 781, which would have created the first statewide Director of Homeless Assistance and Prevention, as well as the Interagency Council on Homelessness, in charge of creating an evidence-based, 10 year master plan aimed at reducing or eliminating homelessness.
I received a call today from the Governor’s Health Care advisor, indicating that the Governor was vetoing my bill, which passed the legislature with absolutely no opposition and with the support of the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops, homeless providers throughout the State, including UNITY, Agenda For the Children, Louisiana Association of Non-Profits, and the Department of Social Services, including the Secretary appointed by the Governor.
The advisor cited the Governor’s preference for using existing resources and administrative duties to combat homelessness.
Governor Jindal has continued to prey on the weakest and most vulnerable among us. His veto of HB 781, with almost 30 co-authors, is a devastating blow to the growing homeless population throughout the State. The Governor’s veto, in addition to his veto of an appropriation by the Legislature to keep the New Orleans Adolescent Hospital open, clearly demonstrates his disregard for the poor and needy. Governor Jindal claims to espouse Catholic values, but his recent actions are the antithesis of Catholic teaching.
Today is a sad day for all Louisiana residents. HB 781 would have created a cost effective approach towards reducing homelessness by streamlining the delivery of homeless services, federal grants, and transitional housing. Moreover, the costs of administering the new Director of Homelessness was to be fully funded with federal grants provided by Congress through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Louisiana taxpayers didn’t have to pay a dime for the new Director and Homeless Council for at least the next two years. The costs thereafter were negligible.
The Governor will find few allies in cities throughout Louisiana, most of which are struggling to find temporary housing for the newly unemployed, working poor, and chronic homeless. This veto was completely unwarranted. There will continue to be a major void at the State level for the delivery of homeless services. I am appalled by the Governor’s lack of heart and mind.
Fiscal Footnote: Two days after the veto of the homeless assistance bill, the Times-Picayune reported that Governor Jindal signed into law Senate Bill 52 to establish an annual “Second Amendment Weekend” that exempts from state and local taxes all rifles, handguns, ammunition, and a list of hunting-related supplies and equipment, including airboats and all-terrain vehicles. The estimate from legislative analysts is that the gun-tax holiday will cost the state $120,000 a year and local governments $143,000 yearly. The combined cost over five years is four times that of the homeless assistance bill.