UPDATED: Vitter, In Advance Of Tomorrow’s Infrastructure Forum, Lays Down Two Key Agenda Points

From a press release out just this morning…

David Vitter (R-LA) made two major policy announcements today on the related issues of stabilizing the state budget and building a world-class highway and infrastructure system.  This comes on the eve of the first public forum in the governor’s race, focused on infrastructure.

“As I’ve clearly said, this will be my last political job – elected or appointed – period,” Vitter said. “I’m running for Governor to confront our biggest challenges head-on, not to avoid them or play politics with them.”

1)  Immediately upon being sworn in as governor, Vitter will call a Special Session of the Legislature on fundamental spending and tax reform to stabilize the state budget and promote greater job growth.  At the center of this effort will be cutting back on the spending dedications and restrictions that make balancing the budget much more difficult in a slow economy; reexamining all tax credits, exemptions, and deductions based on an objective cost-benefit analysis; and lowering some taxes and rates to spur economic growth.

“Governor Jindal should be doing this now.  I’ll do it the minute I’m sworn in.  We need to break out of this never-ending cycle of budget chaos and cuts to vital areas like higher ed,” Vitter said.

Another specific goal of the session will be to greatly strengthen the Transportation Trust Fund.  This can be done by greatly curtailing trust fund dollars from being spent on things other than transportation needs, and ensuring that trust fund revenue sources like the vehicle sales tax actually go into the trust fund.

“We also must put trust back in the Transportation Trust Fund by not siphoning off tax money people pay for roads and bridges and spending it on other stuff,” added Vitter.

2)  Sometime after this initial Special Session, Vitter will also propose a targeted highway building plan.  This plan will be comprised of specific high-priority projects and specific revenue tied to completing them on an expedited basis.  This is essential to encourage and handle large industrial and other projects, and to relieve horrible and growing traffic congestion in many areas.

“I’m tired of poor roads and mounting traffic in Louisiana.  We can do better.  And we must do better or else big industrial projects and good jobs will go somewhere else,” Vitter stated.

Tomorrow there will be a gubernatorial forum put on by the general contractors and engineers on infrastructure, at which these topics will be discussed in detail. Vitter’s release is two things – first, an effort to get headlines and demonstrate some command on the issue in advance of the forum, and second, an effort to put distance between himself and the current Republican governor. Comprehensive budget reform, which is seen by lots of Republicans as Jindal’s biggest failing despite the latter’s ability to claim that he really has cut down the size of state government (particularly if you use the Katrina recovery-bloated $30 billion state budget of 2008 as a baseline), is the easiest way for Vitter to create that distance. While he’s at it Vitter will likely push to tie Scott Angelle, Jindal’s former appointed Lt. Governor and legislative liaison, to Jindal’s budget failures.

Which is smart politics, of course, and Vitter won’t be the only one doing that. Jay Dardenne’s camp needs to keep Angelle’s vote-getting to a minimum, because every Angelle vote is a non-Vitter Republican vote Dardenne needs to secure a spot in the runoff. Provided the Democrats don’t chew themselves up with multiple candidates and only run one, whether it’s John Bel Edwards or Mitch Landrieu (Foster Campbell is talking about running, and if he does he’s certain to screw up the chances of the main Democrat candidate of making a runoff), the presence of a well-funded Angelle in the race will make it extremely difficult for Dardenne to claw his way into the runoff. That’s also true in reverse, of course – if Dardenne wasn’t in the race Angelle would be in a position to run as a non-Vitter Republican palatable to Democrat voters as a not-so-distant former Democrat harkening back to the days of John Breaux and Chris John.

But Jindal’s popularity, or lack of it, is a problem for Angelle. And that’s a problem which will only get larger as the current state budget crisis takes shape, which means it won’t be long before not only are Vitter and Dardenne – and of course Edwards – beating up on Jindal over the state budget, but Angelle could well begin throwing a shot or two in order to distance himself from the mess.

This sets up what could be a very interesting theme in Louisiana politics in 2015. Jindal might be traveling the country drumming up support for a presidential campaign by running against a term-limited Barack Obama, but meanwhile back home he might well have candidates of both parties drumming up support by running against a term-limited Bobby Jindal.

UPDATE: Angelle answers…

Tomorrow, Scott Angelle will participate in the Louisiana Association of General Contractor’s gubernatorial forum in Baton Rouge where he will discuss vital infrastructure funding solutions.
On the eve of the forum, Angelle said:
“The current budget challenge Louisiana faces will be solved by sound, steady and transparent solutions. I don’t believe that good roads have to come at the expense of quality education or vice versa. Louisiana voters want and deserve both.
Traffic congestion and infrastructure development is becoming Louisiana’s next great hurdle to building our economy. I am the only candidate in this race who has executive level experience building roads. I know their importance and I know how to get it done. We must revisit the 2008 trigger on the dedication of motor vehicle taxes in order to make sure that money is spent on roads, bridges and infrastructure, as Louisiana voters expected. We must also keep our promise to the voters by making sure that every dollar we get for the Transportation Trust Fund goes toward improving infrastructure.
Secondly, where it is economically feasible, we must build toll roads. I will not wait on this. I want the potential projects to be started and finished as soon as possible. We need to build toll roads and maintain the old roads to ensure that motorists have choices, while relieving traffic congestion.
I believe infrastructure is a bipartisan issue. If we do not solve our traffic congestion problems and preserve our current roads and bridges, our state’s economic development future will be put at risk. Choking business with poor infrastructure will only result in fewer jobs for hard working families and make life more difficult for the mom and dad picking their child up from school each day. That is unacceptable. Economic failure harms Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike. To solve this crisis and keep our economy growing, we need a governor with the principles and experience necessary to lead this conversation.”


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