An Open Letter To Damon Baldone

On Friday, the New York Daily News published an open letter by state rep. Damon Baldone (D-Houma) which castigated Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal for flying to the Big Apple for a big-money fundraiser in support of the latter’s gubernatorial re-election campaign.

It seems clear from the letter that Baldone is one of few Democrats left in the state not interested in switching to the Republican Party.

Baldone’s letter, titled Gov. Jindal, Get Out Of New York, reads as follows…

I’m writing from Louisiana with hope that our governor, Bobby Jindal, might see this letter.

We haven’t seen much of Jindal back home. First, he spent months jetting around the country campaigning for other politicians. Now, he’s back on the road promoting his book and raising money.

Tonight, he’s due in New York City for a high-dollar fund-raiser.

Clearly, personal political aspirations are more important to him than the reality we face here in Louisiana. Our people are facing the largest budget deficits in recent memory – a crisis measured in the billions, not just the hundreds of millions.

The governor’s cuts in education and health care alone will be crippling.

Well-educated and successful college and university students are the key to every aspect of Louisiana’s future. Gov. Jindal’s planned cuts for higher education will set this state back for a generation at the very least.

The impact on Louisiana’s health care system will be just as painful: fewer prescriptions for our elderly, less preventive care for our children, drastic reductions in home-based care. Those who can least afford the pain will be hurt the most.

Louisiana is in crisis, but our top leader remains absent.

Damon Baldone, State Representative

To which we respond as follows.

Rep. Baldone,

We read with interest an online copy of your angry epistle at Gov. Bobby Jindal’s trip to New York City in support of his upcoming gubernatorial campaign. And though we appreciate the concept that Louisiana has many issues to resolve in the upcoming legislative session and we don’t disagree with the importance of Jindal’s leadership in crafting solutions to those unresolved issues, we’re a bit perplexed with the level of your animus at a fellow member of Louisiana’s political class.

Your letter is, of course, not an original idea. Casual observers of Louisiana politics will remember that little more than a month ago, LSU Student Government Association president J. Ryan Hudson fired off letters to newspapers in towns visited by Jindal during his campaign tour in support of Republican candidates in the last election cycle with largely the same harangue. Hudson’s letters were at least creative, and if they were juvenile at least they were an understandable stunt from a college student. Your missive doesn’t quite come off as well.

After all, last week Jindal conducted meetings with stakeholders among Louisiana’s higher education institutions to discuss fundamental changes to how those institutions are funded, and he also met with legislative leaders to discuss a host of ideas for patching the budget deficit. We admit that few of the one-time ideas Jindal proposed at that meeting did much for us; we like the idea of selling off surplus state land and movable property and we like the idea of shopping the state health plan out to private providers to save as much as $100 million a year, but most of the rest of the ideas thrown around aren’t good ones.

Jindal is also engaged in discussions about bidding out the state’s Medicaid business to private insurance providers, which may allow for future savings.

Yesterday the Governor was in front of the cameras attempting to help New Orleans keep the Hornets in their current lease. While that’s hardly the most important issue confronting the state it is an issue many people in southeast Louisiana expect the governor to involve himself in, and Jindal is engaged.

In short, while Hudson’s letter written during the campaign hit close to the mark as to Jindal’s perceived inaction in the midst of the state’s budget issues, yours appears a bit late and no longer very meaningful.

Is it now an organized campaign among what Democrats remain in Louisiana’s state legislature to engage in letter-writing to out-of-state newspapers? And if so, do you really claim to be spending your time any more wisely in combatting Louisiana’s problems than Gov. Jindal is?

While Jindal has been in the news engaging on the issues of the day and discussing plans to tackle them – as we said, with a perhaps questionable degree of success, your party’s leadership has been less visible. We’re not sure whether you were in attendance at the meeting at a hunting lodge near Lake Charles at which many key Democrats sought to hash out a response to our problems, but what came from that meeting was certainly no more serious than what Jindal is working on. Rolling back business tax breaks, bringing back the Stelly plan and imposing yet another tax on cigarettes is anything but a credible plan to resolve the budget deficit. And if there were discussions of reorganizing state government in a more efficient and cost-effective way among your leaders, those discussions weren’t reported. That fact indicates to us that you didn’t examine what cuts could be made – if you had, it would certainly be news.

Rep. Baldone, you seem quite offended by the fact that Gov. Jindal is spending considerable effort building a national political persona. We don’t much care whether he does that or not; none of the Governor’s dreams will come true unless he can justify them with performance here in Louisiana, and whether he ultimately does that or not has yet to be seen. But while Jindal might be ambitious to a fault, we don’t inherently recoil from ambition in this country. What we generally do recoil from is obnoxious gadflies who seize upon every opportunity to trash their political opponents, and particularly when those gadflies have just as much of a responsibility to pull weight in state government as their targets are.

Until the recent spate of party-switching in the state legislature there were more Democrats in the Louisiana House of Representatives than Republicans. And there are still more Democrats than Republicans in the state Senate, at least until the next member of your party turns his coat. It’s expected that next year’s elections will turn your party out of office en masse, and you will then reside in a legislative wilderness with little power to affect policy. At that point, you can write all the letters you want to the New York Daily News.

But in the meantime, while you still have a seat at the table, we’d appreciate it if you’d stop aping college students’ stunts and do the job the voters elected you to do.

Signed,

MacAoidh and the Hayride gang.

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