SEVEN LESSONS FROM AN ELECTION-NIGHT DUMPSTER FIRE: Lesson Six

IF YOU THOUGHT OUR “REPUBLICAN” LEGISLATURE WOULD BLOCK THE DAMAGE A LEFT-WING GOVERNOR CAN DO, NOW COMES YOUR WAKE-UP CALL.

John Bel Edwards has a nickname already as governor-elect, and it’s going to end up as a derisive one before it’s over.

That nickname is Gov. NotSoBad.

Because that’s what conservatives and Republicans who resigned themselves, for whatever reason, to an Edwards governorship have been saying about him.

A 29 lifetime score as a state legislator from LABI? He won’t be so bad.

An “F” lifetime grade from the Louisiana Family Forum? Bet he’s not so bad.

Screaming at the top of their lungs by conservative legislators that as far as left-wing policy goes he’s the spawn of Satan? Nah. Not so bad.

Brought bills every session attempting to dismantle Louisiana’s education reforms and school choice? Can’t be so bad.

And why? Because Louisiana has a Republican majority in the state legislature, a majority which has grown a little since this past legislative session. That legislature will stand in the way and block all the worst things Edwards is going to do.

If you believe in Gov. NotSoBad, you probably also believe in Santa Claus. Particularly if you’re counting on the Republicans in the legislature to stop Edwards from dragging the state to the left.

Let’s start by recognizing that John Alario will remain as the president of the Louisiana Senate, something that has been the case over the past four years as Louisiana’s reform agenda has been virtually stopped in its tracks following the education reforms of 2012. There was a push to drop Louisiana’s state income tax and make us competitive with Texas; it was dead on arrival. There was a notion of meaningful pension reform; not a chance. Reforms to the budget in an effort to undedicate funds and keep cuts from falling on higher education and health care; nope, we went in the opposite direction.

Alario was Edwin Edwards’ floor leader in the House. He’ll be John Bel Edwards leader in the Senate. He calls himself a Republican but he’s an old-school Democrat. Do you think the masses of tawdry Jefferson Parish courthouse mob pols who endorsed Edwards last week did so without Alario’s blessing? Think again. He hedged his bets by not endorsing anyone, in case David Vitter managed to win, but Alario will gladly move Edwards’ agenda in the Senate so long as he gets to wet his beak here and there.

And in the House? You will have a Democrat Speaker atop a Republican majority. Just watch.

The most likely personage among the group is Walt Leger, whose political skills far exceed those of Edwards himself. Leger votes with the Republicans on business issues just enough (he has a LABI lifetime score of 38 percent) to make himself semi-palatable, at least in comparison to the new governor, and he’s already been collecting pledges of loyalty from Republicans in the House eager for plum committee assignments or chairmanships he can dole out as the new boss.

There is a push being initiated by the state party to collect pledges to the opposite effect; namely, that a Republican House ought to have a Republican Speaker. That’s a nice thought, but these are the same people who went along with $700 million in new taxes in this year’s session to “balance” a budget that, shockingly, didn’t balance when the expected revenues didn’t materialize. If you think that an appeal on conservative principle to a Bryan Adams or Joe Lopinto, who joined the courthouse mob pols from Jefferson endorsing Edwards last week, or a Chris Broadwater or Rob Shadoin, who showed up to second-line at his victory party, will get anywhere…think again. The only thing that would keep a Broadwater from backing a Leger would be the prospect that Broadwater might have the favor of the new governor and the honor to move the Edwards agenda as Speaker himself.

Either way, what’s the difference? There is no Republican in the House with enough support to get a majority in favor of standing in Edwards’ way. It will either be a Democrat with Republican support or a quisling Republican with support of a Democrat governor. And in the Senate, Alario and the old school.

And a billion-dollar budget deficit that will be closed with more attempts at taxation.

The guess here is, since Edwards won’t want to hit the voters who just elected him with steep tax increases and the $700 Million Club in the legislature will be running and hiding as well, the billion dollars in tax increases are going to come the old-fashioned Democrat way going all the way back to Huey Long. Or at least his modern epigone, Foster Campbell, who has had his eye on an oil processing tax as the panacea for Louisiana’s fiscal woes. That will pass, we predict, with overwhelming Republican support – and why? Because the oil and gas lobbies give out $250 campaign checks rather than $2500 ones.

The damage that tax will do to an already injured industry will be hard to recover from, and what it will do to the petrochemical industry which has some $60 billion in capital expansion waiting in the wings will be devastating, but that won’t matter to Edwards. He’s already made it clear that he thinks Nicholls State and the Medicaid program are more “high-priority” items than private sector jobs in the state. So the government gets its cut first, and then the peons can keep what’s left.

The “Republicans” in the legislature, with a few notable and laudable exceptions, have already shown that they have little stomach for an ideological fight. If you think these guys are going to beat back a lurch to the left over the next four years, keep dreaming. There is no Santa Claus, and Gov. NotSoBad will be plenty bad enough.



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