On Friday, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) announced that he would reject nearly $100 million in unemployment insurance funding from the federal government. In doing so, Jindal ensured that at least 25,000 unemployed Lousiana residents would not be eligible for unemployment insurance. In response, Louisiana’s Lt. Gov., Mitch Landrieu (D), said that “Jindal needs to choose whether to represent the state of Louisiana or be the spokesman for the national Republican Party“:
Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu said in a telephone conference call that Jindal needs to choose whether to represent the state of Louisiana or be the spokesman for the national Republican Party. … “Those interests don’t always line up,” Landrieu said. “It puts the governor at risk of sending mixed messages. … Louisiana should be very aggressive in going to get this money.” [...]
Jindal on Friday refused to accept $98.4 million, calling the money an incentive to expand the numbers of unemployed people who could receive benefits in way that eventually would require the state to raise taxes for businesses and employers.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) responded to new of Jindal’s decision by quipping, “You just tell them that anyone that doesn’t want to take the money: I’m ready to take their money and rebuild California.” Gov. Jennifer Ganholm (D-MI) made similar remarks in reference to the possibility of Govs. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) and Mark Sanford (R-SC) following Jindal’s lead.
As New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin (D) observed last week, Jindal’s decision appears to be little more than a thinly veiled attempt to burnish his conservative credentials for a possible presidential campaign in 2012. Matthew Yglesias, however, suggests that Jindal’s maneuver may also be premised on a “‘begger thy neighbor’ strategy” to artificially reduce his state’s unemployment figures:
If Louisiana makes its unemployment benefits less generous than what’s available in other states, then maybe unemployed citizens will leave Louisiana for Texas and other neighboring states, thus creating an artificial appearance of an improved economic situation. It would be the equivalent of Mike Bloomberg fighting poverty by demolishing all the low-income housing in New York and hoping the poor people all move elsewhere.