A day after celebrating his first year in office, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal traveled to Slidell to welcome new board members of the East St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce.
“Someone wished me ‘Happy Anniversary’ yesterday,” said Jindal. “I froze for a minute because I wondered if I had forgotten to buy my wife a gift.”
Jindal’s comments came during the chamber’s 2009 Installation and Awards Banquet at the Northshore Harbor Center last week. More than 300 people were in attendance to hear the governor’s assessment of changes enacted over the last year and to witness the swearing-in of the group’s new board of directors.
It was almost five years ago exactly that Jindal presided over the group’s installation of officers in 2004, just after his first run for governor, in which he lost by only a narrow margin to Kathleen Blanco. After serving two terms in the U.S. Congress, he gained the office of governor in October 2007 with 54 percent of the vote, winning 60 of 64 parishes.
In that first year, Jindal held two special sessions to address ethics and to attempt the elimination of certain taxes, such as the business tax on the purchase of new equipment. During his address, Jindal noted that two national watchdog groups, the Better Government Association and the Center for Public Integrity, have announced that Louisiana’s new ethics laws are now among the toughest in the nation.
“The Center for Public Interest previously rated us 43 out of 100 and now rates us 99 out of 100 for disclosure,” the governor said. “I’ve seen newspaper articles from other states that say ‘maybe we should do what Louisiana is doing’.”
Moving on to discuss plans for his second year in office, Jindal touched on the struggles to balance the $2 billion budget shortfall the state faces for the 2009-2010 fiscal year. He is committed, he said, to not raising taxes or slowing down tax cuts to balance the budget.
“We will do it by tightening our belt and spending more efficiently,” said Jindal.
Applause broke out several times during Jindal’s address, most notably when he announced his intention to continue pursuing the adoption of the toughest child predator laws in the nation. He said he was never more disappointed in the Supreme Court than when it threw out the death penalty for child rapists and chose that day to sign into law a bill that gave judges the option to call for castration in such cases.
In closing, Jindal commented on the current economic crisis facing the country.
“It’s easy to say this mess was created by Wall Street bankers, Washington lawmakers being asleep at the wheel or the big national banks,” he said. “While those things may all be partly to blame, the number one reason is our addiction to debt.”
In addition to Jindal’s remarks, outgoing board president Alan Hodges commented on the group’s activities over the last year, such as the gain of 149 new members, which he said represented “new heights” in membership. The chamber also improved its member retention rate to 86 percent, which is higher than the national average reported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Incoming board president for 2009 is Jack Francioni of Brian Harris Autoplex, which served as the presenting sponsor for the evening.