The Hayride sat down exclusively with gubernatorial candidate Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle to discuss the state’s financial crisis, Gov. Bobby Jindal, Common Core and religious liberty legislation that the media portrays as controversial. The following is the transcript of the interview:
BINDER: What sets you apart from Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Rep. John Bel Edwards (D-Amite)?
Angelle: I’ve been Public Service Commissioner now for, I guess, right about two and a half years. I approach politics a little bit differently so when I say ‘What separates me?’ I don’t do it in a critical way. I’ve been elected six times, two on the ballot and two without any opposition in my career. I’ve never run a negative ad. I’ve never sent out a negative piece of mail. I’ve never done that. So when I answer the question ‘What sets me apart?’ it is about me and not about them.
On being a ‘bottom-up guy’….
ANGELLE: I would simply say that I’m a bottom up guy. I’m one of nine kids and I think that has had a significant impact on how I approach problems. I started at the very, very bottom. In my area [Breaux Bridge], when you’re on the police jury, that’s the very, very bottom. I spent 12 years there. I think anywhere, if you start at the bottom and you ascend to the top, you take the way you were shaped with you. And I’m the bottom-up candidate that clearly enjoys meeting with folks and not thinking that all solutions come from the White House or the state house. I’m particularly more interested in not only thinking that, yes this governor’s election is about policy, but policy that is void in understanding how to fix people is not sustainable. So I would view myself as the person who clearly understands people more than any other candidate in the race, without being critical.
BINDER: Recently, Liberal Columnist Bob Mann has said that Democrats in the state should not support Rep. John Bel Edwards (D-Amite), but instead pick another Republican who can beat Sen. David Vitter (R-LA). Do you think you could be that alternative Republican that Democrats could get behind?
ANGELLE: I think folks need to examine the candidates and need to vote with their heart and who they believe can best lead the state. I’m going to run a very effective campaign and folks are going to make those decisions. I don’t think as a candidate that I would say that people need to do this to get that to jump over this to go through that. I would simply say that I’m going to put myself out there as a candidate who is going to work on solutions. I think this state is starving for a governor who is interested in getting the ball across the goal line and not focusing on the headlines. This can be accessed from this android mobile casino site from here and android casino app. I think I am that guy, I have been that guy. And I think ultimately, when people vote, it is an expression of who they are. My job is to get out there and put my offense on the field and show folks ‘Hey, this is a guy I want to vote for.’
On candidates not being perfect….
ANGELLE: Too many times, I think campaigns are about ‘Let me not vote for the lesser of two evils.’ I’m trying to be a candidate that is positive and energetic. I don’t think there is a perfect candidate. I don’t think there is a perfect spouse or a perfect child or perfect boss or perfect employee. We tend to have this emphasis during every election cycle that there’s going to be a candidate that I can vote for that is going to be perfect. And it never happens. Candidates run and governing is hard and tough work. We’re never going to always agree. I’ve been married to my best friend for 29 years and we have five kids. We don’t always agree on how we’re going to handle the affairs of our family. And so, what I’m trying to do is say ‘Here’s who I am, where I’ve been, the work that I’ve focused on. I’ve left every place better than I found it and now I want to be the quarter back. I want to lead the state.’ All that stuff, I just leave that to the pundits.
BINDER: If you were governor, how would you go about getting rid of Common Core? Would you go about it the same way as Gov. Booby Jindal, making a legal argument that the state has been coerced into Common Core?
ANGELLE: That argument makes it sound like we’re a victim; that when we made some decisions and then when we didn’t like the decisions, we get to blame them on somebody else. I don’t have a victim mentality approach to things. We made a decision. People in Texas didn’t tell us, people in Mississippi didn’t tell us, people in Washington DC perhaps put some things in front of us, but we had the right to say ‘no.’ And we chose not to say ‘no.’ That whole process to me has not been the right way to approach it. I think the legislature has obviously come up with this compromise bill to look at Louisiana folks and Louisiana standards.
On why Common Core won’t work….
ANGELLE: Before I took a position on Common Core, I traveled. I visited with school teachers. I visited with parents. I interviewed school board members, school board superintendents and I came to the conclusion that the reason Common Core won’t work is because the very people we need it to work, don’t think it can work. Now, there are parents and teachers and school board members that do believe it can [work] and I respect that. I can tell you that from my own personal interaction, I’ve come to the conclusion that the very people who need to make it work, don’t believe it can work. And to me that matters. It’s like having a pilot who does not believe he can fly the aircraft in charge of flight school. It’s a difficult thing. In my mind, this idea that the government put some stuff in front of us and ‘If you don’t take this, we’re not going to give you any money,’ well we need to understand what the consequences are when anybody puts anything in front of us. I don’t subscribe to this whole victim mentality.
BINDER: Do you think that what the state currently has in place, where teachers and schools are evaluated through the Compass evaluation, is the right way to go about improving public education?
ANGELLE: I think that we need to hold people accountable. We spend an incredible amount of money on education in this state and in every state. Holding people accountable makes sense. But, people need to understand what the rules are; the owner’s manual needs to be distributed. People need to understand what they are being graded on. None of us ever enjoyed going to school and taking a test not knowing what we were going to be graded on.
On the rollout of Compass and the breakdown of the family unit….
ANGELLE: And in a lot of ways, the rollout of [Compass], where we increased accountability without giving teachers, in my mind, a clear path to success, I think has created this tremendous pushback, which makes it more difficult to make the kind of progress that we need to make in the years. I’m married to a former school teacher. My wife left the education system long before this was in place, so I’m not speaking from that perspective. But, I am speaking from a perspective that the breakdown of the family unit has been so substantial, that we have asked teachers to do things that teachers in my generation didn’t have to do. I’m ok with having a higher level of accountability, but I also believe that we make it very clear on what we expect. I do believe that having letting grades and scoring is important for teachers and the schools as well.
BINDER: Would you place blame on Gov. Jindal for the state’s fiscal crisis?
ANGELLE: I think certainly the CEO of the state deserves responsibility. I think the board of directors, the legislators deserve some responsibility. I think there were some warning signs that were coming some time ago that were not heated. The simple fact of the matter is that for now, some four or five years, we’ve had a ‘sweep and spend’ kind of approach. We’ve got into every nook and cranny of the state and we have shaken the sofa cushions to get nickels and quarters and taking them out of areas where they were voted on for a specific purpose, whether it’s taking money out of various agencies to pay for recurring expenses in state government. That’s a warning sign. In all of our lives, we get a year of transition when we get a setback that we have to go back into our savings account to kind of help pay our bills, but we can’t sustain ourselves on that. We’ve had too many years of sweep and spend. Absolutely the governor and the legislature deserve [responsibility]. No budget gets introduced without the governor introducing it and no budget gets approved without the legislature saying ‘yes’ to it.
BINDER: What do you think of the practice of using one-time money to fund recurring expenses?
ANGELLE: I’m not a fan. I think all it does is kick the can down the road. It doesn’t solve the issue. But, we’ve got structural issues. If you look at the simple fact that the two most important metrics on how to measure an economy are the number of people working and we’ve got the highest nonfarm employment we’ve ever had in the state, producing, last year, the highest growth domestic product (GDP) we’ve ever had in the state. Those two metrics are the most important metrics to measure the trends of an economy and we have a $1.6 billion deficit, so one might ask ‘We can’t afford any more of this, right?’ The simple fact is, there are some structural problems. We have in a lot of ways, not dealt with some of the issues that our antiquated tax code, I believe, continues to call for problems. And what we’ve done is band-aided it by using one-time money and that never, ever has solved the problems in any family, in any business and certainly not in government.
BINDER: How would you go about fixing the state’s $1.6 billion shortfall?
ANGELLE: Well the first thing we’ve got to do is obviously go into a special [legislative] session. We’ve got to be willing to look at the fact that over the last 25 years, it has been fire drill after fire drill. I’m going to come to the recognition that there is a structural problem. We have different governors, from different parties, from different regions of the state and yet we still keep producing fire drills with a few exceptions within those years. And then let’s look at the metrics: Highest nonfarm employment, highest gross domestic product (GDP). Why is it that we have this issue? The size of the general fund is smaller today than it was four or five years ago. I think a general fund kind of peeked at about $10.5 billion, now it’s at about $9.3 billion. If I take a look at the general fund over the last ten years, there has been some growth; smaller today than it was three or four years ago. There ought to always be ways in a $9 billion fund that we can streamline and find ways to be more efficient. I will always believe that when we are spending nine billion dollars, we can find some efficiency.
On tax credits, exemptions and rebates….
ANGELLE: I do believe that in a special session, it will be absolutely critical to focus on the seven and a half billion dollars of tax credits, exemptions and rebates that we give. I look at tax credits, exemptions and rebates as giving away your money. That’s what I look at it as. I believe that if DOTD enter into a contract to build a $10 million bridge, you would expect the state to get $10 million worth of bridge. And if they got an $8 million bridge and paid $10 million for it, you have the right to want to know why. When I take a look at a $7.5 billion tax credit, exemption and rebate program, in my mind, what we have done is put things on the books with absolutely no requirements to revisit those programs to make sure we are getting what we are paying for. When we give an exemption or a credit, if it doesn’t add value to the 4.5 million people in the state, then it’s not good. I think we deal with the budget crisis by always focusing on streamlining, cutting, finding ways to reduce the size of government. But, at the same time, it’s not an either/or. I don’t think we can have an approach where we are simply thinking that we can get to excellence in higher education, port infrastructure, building capacity along interstates or doing preservation by cutting an employee here and there. I will always be about trying to find ways to cut; I’ve done that in every spot along the way. But, I don’t believe we can be excellent if at the same time, we granted a tax exemption a decade ago because it was good public policy then and we don’t have any metrics on how we might review it today. In the meantime, we are giving away something more than what we’re getting in return for it. That’s not acceptable and we’ve done too much of that in my opinion.
BINDER: What do you make of the expansion of social welfare programs and the fraud that comes along with it?
ANGELLE: I’m very concerned. The entitlement programs, when you look at the federal budget, it was 68 percent of the entire federal budget. I personally was taught at an early age that the person in the mirror is most responsible for my success. I absolutely believe that life ought to be better for those who work than those who can, but choose not to. In Maine, they went to a different approach on food stamps, trying to make sure we don’t have a situation where we’re saying ‘Don’t worry; life is going to be ok. The government is going to take care of you.’ We, I think, inch closer every decade since 1950 towards the government providing solutions. And I don’t think that’s healthy. I’m a firm believer in setting up processes and setting up requirements to make certain that fraud does not take away the ability for America to invest in good programs because a couple bad apples are spoiling the whole thing.
On a Constitutional Convention….
ANGELLE: I believe that a Constitutional Convention could be in order. For me, it’s not in year one as my role as governor. Year one is going to be about making the changes that we need through working with the legislature. But, I am not opposed to a Constitutional Convention. If at the end, we can’t make the changes that we need through the legislative process, I’m totally ok with a Constitutional Convention.
BINDER: How would you go about dealing with legislation like Rep. Mike Johnson’s (R-Bossier City) HB707, which the media portrayed as controversial? And do you think Gov. Jindal’s executive order was necessary?
ANGELLE: I don’t think executive orders ought to ever be used to try to attempt to make new law. I’ve never believed that. As the son of a former legislator, I believe that the legislative branch is important and we ought to be changing law through the legislative branch. I haven’t read the executive order, but everything I’ve read about the comments about the executive order that even the governor’s former executive council said that it does nothing in making new law. To the degree that it’s clarifying or instructing state officials to follow current law, it could have been done through a memo or an executive order or anything. But, I don’t think an executive order should be used to make new law because that might work for you well one day, but it could work against you another day and I think we’re seeing that on the federal level.
BINDER: Is legislation like Johnson’s HB707 necessary and would you support such legislation as governor?
ANGELLE: I supported what Mike brought. And the way I look at it is, I do believe a small business owner who has strongly held religious beliefs ought not have to worry about the government taking away some of their individual business rights. For instance, if a small business has strong religious beliefs was entitled to a tax credit and did not want to perform, we use the baker as an example, because of their beliefs, they will have to defend their beliefs, that’s what’s going to be on trial. Mike’s bill was about what government could not do to someone who has strong religious beliefs. I think there is a place in America for that kind of legislation.
BINDER: Do you think HB707 was misconstrued in the state as legislation that legalized discrimination?
ANGELLE: Absolutely, I think that’s part of the problem. Like in any tough debate, lines get blurred. There’s not a bone in my body that believes that anybody that is in the public accommodation business ought to ever be able to deny anybody service based on their religion, color, etc. I come from a generation of Louisianans that believes that there is no room for that. I don’t think that’s what this bill did. It was about what government could do, not about what someone could do to discriminate against somebody. Whether there is a better way to draft that legislation, I’m not certain. But, I’ll be happy to be part of a team that can see if we can make that happen.
BINDER: Should the minimum be waged?
ANGELLE: I think the market place should take care of that. I think it makes sense for the nation to have some minimum wage, as opposed to each state doing its own thing. But, I think it’s a losing argument because what it says is, ‘I can make a living at minimum effort to be able to make life better.’ And we ought to be focusing on maximum pay instead of minimum pay. I saw recently where Wal-Mart is now advertising that they are spending money raising wages. That’s awesome and that’s their decision that they have now come to the conclusion that they need to raise wages which they believe good for their business model. So the market works, if we would just let it. It’s a self-defeating situation to focus on ‘We’re going to raise the minimum wage and that’s going to be a wage that someone who has not a lot of skills can leave them to believe that they can have a really great life,’ I just don’t think that’s acceptable. I don’t think its good public policy and I don’t think it’s worked.
On the Keystone XL Pipeline….
ANGELLE: The fact that we have a neighbor who has a supply of energy who is our friendliest partner, Canada, and we use about 18 billion barrels of oil a day and we produce about nine and half and import about nine, it was seem to me like getting it from our most trusted neighbor would make a whole lot more sense than transferring wealth to other parts of the globe that do not share our values of freedom. I think the decisions that have been made at the federal level regarding it have all be based on politics and not on the reality of the fact that it makes more sense. Canada is always going to find a way to export their oil and they’re going to send it to folks who are going to be the beneficiaries of that. It hasn’t been handled in a way that is good in the long-term for America; it’s been more in the short-term of politics.
BINDER: Lastly, what do you think of the critics who say Jindal has not been in the state as much as the public would like, but instead across the country promoting himself?
ANGELLE: I think we traded one set of problems for another. I don’t think the economy has been wrecked. We went through a period where our economy was very flat in the state and we had a hard time recruiting outside dollars to the state. And we had outward migration of folks; there was no significant investment on manufacturing. That has changed with some good management and some good luck. I’m glad to have played a part in that. In 2008, we were losing a lot of our legacy industries in the state. The petrochemical industry was moving and $13 natural gas was sending up to other parts of the globe. With some good luck and some good management, we’ve got $4 natural gas here, which has certainly hurt the investments in the drill bit, but it’s had a significant impact to job opportunities. I don’t think it’s fair to say the economy has been wrecked, because that’s not true.
On higher education funding and Jindal’s absence….
ANGELLE: We’ve slashed higher education funding too much to me. And when I look at higher education funding, I don’t just see four year universities. 60 percent of the jobs that we’re going to create in the next decade are going to be for people who need more than a high school degree and less than a four-year college degree. It’s important to me that we fill those jobs with Louisianans and that can only be done through training opportunities. In a sense what we’ve done is traded one set of problems where we were not competing, but now we’re competing. And in the meantime, we’ve balanced our budget on ‘sweeps’ and on the backs of our medical vendors. If you look at our medical vendors, we have cuts rates incredibly and we ask our students to pay more in fees. I would say there is a balance between all of that and I want to work towards getting to that balance. I think some of the criticism that the governor gets is fair. I believe that in every place that I’ve learned when you have a responsibility to do a job, you focus on that and when that is in a place where things are really good, you can focus on something else. I would compare it to an all-star quarterback. If Drew Brees is throwing for 300 yards every weekend and three touchdowns and he’s pretty consistent and he says he isn’t going to practice this week because things are good, I’m not sure we’d want to argue with success. But, when production goes down and interceptions occur, I think it’s fair for people to say ‘Hey, we need you at practice today.’ I think a totally engaged governor when we have a $1.6 billion deficit is what we have a right to expect. When we don’t get it, it’s fair to have criticism around that. I don’t have the right not to show up in every role I’m responsible and I don’t think anybody else should have that right.