The John Bel Edwards campaign is running a desperate ad trying to link the prostitution scandal from 2001 with a commendation honoring fallen American servicemen during Desert Storm. Edward’s claim that Vitter’s missed vote of the unanimously passed measure was somehow due to the scandal is not only inappropriate in trying to exploit the tragic American deaths, but also a bit hypocritical. In 2011, Rep. Edwards missed the final vote in the Louisiana Legislature on HB 143, which provided death and disability benefits for members of the Louisiana National Guard killed or injured in the line of duty during any period of activation after 9/11. Yet you don’t hear Sen. Vitter running an ad claiming that Rep. Edwards, whose entire campaign is his military service, doesn’t care about Louisiana National Guardsmen killed or injured in the line of duty. That would not be fair or accurate. The truth is that both men care about our soldiers and to use one missed vote to claim otherwise, as Rep. Edwards is trying to do, is disingenuous.
In fact, David Vitter personally interceded and helped the family of Staff Sergeant Thomas Florich, a National Guard member who died in a helicopter accident. The Army originally denied the family’s request to have their son buried at Arlington National Cemetery, because he died in training as a National Guard Member, rather than active duty. Senator Vitter became involved, sent a letter to the Secretary of the Army, and collected letters from the other members of the Louisiana delegation urging an exception. The exception was granted and Sergeant Florich received an honorable burial at Arlington National Cemetery for his service to his country. His family is calling upon Rep. Edwards to take down the ad.
The only reason to make a big deal about it is politics, and trying to tarnish your opponent and distract the voters from the real issues of the governor’s race.
Voters Should Focus on the Future
There are much more important issues facing the state and its citizens than an isolated missed vote. Voters need to focus on the record of the candidates and their plans to help the state move forward. Louisiana is currently facing serious budget issues that are not only related to the depressed price of oil, but also its fiscal structure.
An important fiscal issue, which was extensively debated in the recently completed legislative session, is Louisiana’s local inventory tax, which everyone agrees is dated and needs to be changed. Most southern states which compete with Louisiana have repealed their inventory tax years ago to attract new business. In 1991, Louisiana addressed the inventory tax issue by providing an inventory tax credit against state income tax. However, the amount of the credit has ballooned to in excess of $250 million in recent years, and the state can no longer afford it. Also, the tax credit structure doesn’t really help with economic development, since Louisiana is still listed in the various business climate indeces as imposing an inventory tax. This past session, the legislature, in reaction to the state budget deficit, suspended 1 cent of the credit for one year.
David Vitter has pledged to reform the inventory tax, while John Bel Edwards, in deference to the courthouse crowd, has pledged to leave it alone. The fact is that the courthouse crowd loves the inventory tax, because it is a state-subsidized, constitutionally-protected revenue source, despite its drawbacks. To be fair, the state does need to work with local government to help replace the revenue. David Vitter is the only candidate who has pledged to address this tough issue, which is important to the state’s fiscal health.
The Legislature is More Reform Oriented and Responsive to Taxpayers Because of David Vitter
The present legislature is much more reform-oriented and responsive to taxpayers than the one I started my legislative service with in 2003. The difference is due to legislative term limits, which was passed by David Vitter in 1995 and which took effect in 2007, resulting in a large turnover in the legislature. New members arrived with a fresh perspective, were not
attached to the status quo, and instead possessed a sincere desire to reform Louisiana. It wasn’t just a coincidence that the new legislature passed sweeping and comprehensive ethics reform within just a few weeks of taking office. Such reform would have been inconceivable under the old guard, many of whom had side businesses which benefited from their legislative service. The new legislature, made possible by David Vitter’s term limits, prohibited such conflicts of interest.
John Bel Edwards Opposes Term Limits and Governmental Reform
The contrast between John Bel Edwards and David Vitter is clear. David Vitter enacted term limits for legislators and John Bel Edwards opposed term limits for school board members. He also opposed reform legislation keeping school board members and their political agenda out of the classrooms. These reform measures for school board members passed the legislature overwhelmingly, and show that not only is John Bel Edwards out of step with the public, but is also out of step with the legislature in the area of governmental reform.
The state has made great strides in education reform and now is not the time to turn back. The state needs a Governor that is committed to a reform agenda, and who will not be beholding to the courthouse crowd and political establishment.
Louisiana Needs To Reform Lawsuit Abuse
Many of the negative ads against Sen. Vitter have been run by a few wealthy plaintiffs’ lawyers, who oppose lawsuit abuse reform. Louisiana continually ranks high on the list of “judicial hellholes” that discourage new businesses. Studies also show that legal climate is just as important to new business as tax structure. Rep. Edwards has opposed lawsuit abuse reform, including reforming legacy lawsuits which encourage the cleanup of environmental waste, as opposed to attorneys profiting from high damage awards.
Rep. Edwards Attacks to Distract Voters From His Record
Louisiana voters have moved beyond politics as usual. As a group they favor term limits, a positive business climate, education reform and are suspicious of the political establishment.
That’s why Representative Edwards is trying to cloud the message and divert attention from the fact that he is ideologically out of step with the majority of Louisiana voters, who are fiscal conservatives and reform oriented.
Louisiana has come a long way in a short time, with a legislature that is probably more conservative and more reform-oriented than at any time in the recent past. It would be a shame if this reform-oriented legislature was not led by a Governor who is also a reformer, and would be a wasted opportunity to get Louisiana’s fiscal house in order.
David Vitter has a proven record of reform, and has the enemies to prove that he is not hesitant to take on the political establishment. Don’t let conduct that occurred 15 years ago, that was fully vetted in the media seven years ago, distract from the real issues of the governing. Governing is more than symbols and images, and voters should look past the images and buzzwords to see who would be a better steward of Louisiana’s economy – that person is David Vitter.