VIDEO: Back In September, John Bel Edwards Declared He Wouldn’t Change TOPS Much At All

That was then, this is now.

Edwards, who said he was suspending the TOPS program in the middle of the spring semester and leaving tens of thousands of college students across Louisiana in the cold with thousands of dollars of tuition costs they hadn’t planned on, assured a college kid who asked him a question at a gubernatorial debate that he wasn’t going to molest the program. Instead, he would make sure college costs that TOPS pays for would stop increasing.

More after the video…

What Edwards said at the time was patently stupid, you must understand. Edwards wasn’t saying that the universities raising tuition would during his governorship be forced to run much tighter ships and therefore be able to operate without further tuition increases. He was saying he would avoid those tuition increases that would be paid largely through higher expenses in the TOPS program…by appropriating more money to higher education in the state’s general fund.

In other words, he was offering half a dozen rather than six.

As it turns out, according to Edwards there is no money to satisfy the state’s promise to those students through TOPS – though it’s interesting that so far that’s the only cost-cutting initiative he’s put forth – and therefore college kids like the one who asked him that debate question have been lied to.

But, he says, he had no idea the state’s budget was as bad as it is, and that changes everything. He had no idea Bobby Jindal left such a terrible mess.

Really? This man was in the Louisiana House of Representatives for the last eight years and voted for five of the eight budgets Jindal signed – including last year’s budget. He had no idea the direction things were going when he made those promises?

Either Edwards lied to the public last year when he said tax increases were an absolute last resort in resolving the state’s budgetary problems, or he’s lying this year when he says there is no other solution but to raise taxes in a recession economy. Or both.

And he’s not even telling the truth about this suspension of TOPS he announced yesterday. The Louisiana Family Forum’s Gene Mills came back with this little nugget…

“TOPS is subject to legislative appropriation. The Governor has no authority to cut TOPS. Even if Gov. Edwards uses his unilateral authority to reduce the State General Fund by 3% and statutory dedications by 5%, the legislature can appropriate money in a supplemental bill in the regular session to fully fund TOPS. The Governor may line item veto it, but the legislature will override that veto.

“John Bel’s actual strategy last night came straight out of Donald Trump’s playbook. It is a classic bait and switch: tell them the sky has fallen on TOPS, and while they are fussing about it and the end of college football, force the largest tax increase in the history of Louisiana!”

Has Edwards reduced the general fund by three percent and the dedicated money by five percent yet? One would suspect that’s an obvious move to make if you’re really in the hole to the tune of $940 million, or $870 million, or whatever number they’re claiming now, for this year and $2 billion in the red next year. He could make a fairly sizable dent in his budget problems if he would take that step, but rather than announce that and have virtually everyone agree that’s a reasonable start, he immediately goes for TOPS.

And it’s like we noted yesterday and in last night’s Red Bayou Show podcast. That’s not an accident. There is a reason Edwards’ first move is on TOPS

Instead, right before he gives his speech demanding more of your money he pops the most high-profile victims he can find – and specifically the middle-class parents whose kids go to state universities on TOPS scholarships.

Why? Because those parents voted for a Republican legislature, and they’re the ones who answer polls saying they don’t want tax increases. “Bet they’ll change their minds now,” goes the thinking in the governor’s office.

Those parents also represent the highest concentration of Vitter voters Edwards could touch with a budget cut. Generally speaking these are people who don’t want much of anything from the state. They don’t draw welfare, they’re not on Medicaid, they’re taxpayers and they work in the private sector. And a large number of them scrimped and saved to put their kids through private school so they’d have the academic footing to earn a TOPS scholarship, and now Mom and Dad finally get a little bit of a break.

Along comes Edwards to punish them.

It’s thug politics. It’s Make It Hurt. He’s now engaged in a battle of wills with Louisiana taxpayers, with the legislature in the middle. And meantime that stupid “farewell to college football” gambit last night has put him on the front page of every sports website in the country as an unmitigated clown.

Here’s hoping that Edwards is badly outmaneuvered by the Republicans in the legislature on taxes and the budget in the same way he was outmaneuvered in the House Speaker race. Louisiana’s future probably depends on it.

 

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