Deconstructing Gov. Edwards’ Incredible Times-Picayune Op-Ed

And when we say incredible, we don’t mean it in a complimentary way. We mean it’s actually incredible that he would make the claims he makes.

Edwards has developed a penchant for rabbit ears, in that anything he hears in opposition to his agenda sets him off in ways which don’t appear steady or particularly sober. When the pro-school choice group Louisiana Federation for Children ran ads chiding him for breaking the promise he made to parents in New Orleans that he wouldn’t harm the school voucher program, he attacked them as an “out of state special interest group,” which was somewhat bizarre. When Florida governor Rick Scott tweeted that he would be leading a trade mission to Louisiana for the purposes of picking off some of the state’s companies negatively hit by Edwards’ tax and economic policies, Edwards had his spokesman put out a vitriolic statement denigrating Scott’s performance as governor but failing to provide reasons why Louisiana’s jobs and capital would be better off sticking around rather than leaving for greener, and less-taxed, pastures.

And now it’s time to attack Rep. Cameron Henry for the budget proposal which cleared the House Appropriations Committee, which Henry chairs, earlier this week. Edwards chose to do his dirty deed in the pages of New Orleans’ newspaper.

For years, I traveled the state to share my vision for a more prosperous Louisiana.  I assured you that, as governor, I would refocus our attention on priorities here at home by putting Louisiana first. Today, I still have that vision, and while it might not seem like it, Louisiana’s brightest days are ahead of us.

“Putting Louisiana first” is an empty slogan which is meaningless in a discussion of the budget, which this is, and what doesn’t come through in the rest of this missive is how Edwards’ campaign promises distinctly did not include massive, billion-dollar tax increases – which is more or less the only major accomplishment of his term as governor so far. How he can say he still has that vision, or that he ever had it since even Edwards had admitted his no-tax pledge was a lie, is a mystery.

Unfortunately, we’re still dealing with a budget crisis that threatens our future and the future of our children.  It took eight years to get us in this difficult position, and while we can’t right this ship overnight, we’re well on our way.  After making some tough choices to stabilize our budget in the first special legislative session, we’re still left with a $600 million budget deficit for the fiscal year that begins on July 1.

It’s a budget crisis that at this point is almost solely caused by a drop in oil prices. We all know those will go up – if nothing else, they’ll go up because political instability in places like Venezuela and Nigeria will at some point cause a decrease in the world’s oil production and that will ease the glut in supply. So “the children” is largely overwrought as a typical Democrat whine – “the children” will live in Texas and Florida when your high taxes cause their parents to move there, Governor.

And by the way, it took a lot longer than eight years to build the most expensive public sector in the South. It took the better part of 100 years, if not more. Nice try playing the Obama “they drove it into a ditch” card attacking Bobby Jindal, but that gag has whiskers on it.

I ran for governor for a lot of reasons, and chief among them is this: if our young people want to leave Louisiana to get a degree, find a job, or have a rewarding career, we should wish them well and hope that one day they will return. But, if our young people feel like they have to leave Louisiana to get a degree, find a job, or have a rewarding career, then we are failing our children.

You ran for governor because nobody else on the Democrat side would and you felt like you could fill that void and make yourself Mr. Democrat in Louisiana, and you got lucky enough to be in a race with three Republicans who ignored you until the runoff. And when you raise a billion dollars in taxes and set Louisiana up for its old-timey role as the South’s chief exporter of labor, something that whatever you might say about Jindal you can’t honestly dispute that he was able to put a halt to, you really don’t get to cast yourself as the defender of the state’s kids from a U-Haul exodus.

A $600 million deficit for the next fiscal year means that critical services in health care, K-12 education, higher education and the TOPS program will be drastically underfunded. We have already cut more than $230 million in state spending from the first special session, and if these new cuts were to be imposed, we could further cripple our colleges and universities and eliminate lifesaving health care services that families in Louisiana depend on for survival.

Underfunded based on what standard? Louisiana spends $1400 more per person per year at the state and local level than Mississippi does, and better than $2,000 more per person per year than the southern average. We’re 18th in the country in per student spending with respect to K-12 education and 49th in outcomes. And his budget that he says has a $600 million deficit is a billion dollars larger than last year’s budget.

At some point, shame is going to set in and the constant howling about doomsday budget scenarios will peter out. Edwards ran his campaign on the basis that he was an honest guy who went to West Point; if that honesty was actually on display he’d be saying “I want to grow the state government and I want you people to pay for it.” Apparently, the feeling on the 4th floor is that’s not sellable, so it’s The End Of The World if the bloated school boards get less welfare from the state or if there are three hospitals instead of four in the Houma-Thibodaux area (or if the fourth one is a private or locally-funded hospital rather than the state’s responsibility), etc.

A recent proposal by the House Appropriations Committee chairman is giving false hope to the public and continuing the bad budget practices that got us into this crisis. To be clear: funding TOPS is a priority of my administration, as is funding K-12 and higher education and our safety-net hospitals. But, under this proposal, funding for TOPS is meaningless if students can’t get a quality education because their colleges and universities have to undergo another year of devastating cuts.  To make matters even worse, this new proposal completely eliminates funding for the inspector general, the state government’s watchdog whose sole responsibility is to eliminate corruption.  That, in itself, is one of the least responsible things we can do as leaders of this state.

If there were cuts to the general fund appropriations for Louisiana’s colleges in the budget that passed that committee, we didn’t hear about them and neither did the Times-Picayune’s capitol beat reporters. That sounds like a complete red herring, particularly given that TOPS funding is higher education funding – something Louisiana’s Democrats stubbornly refuse to admit. Edwards cannot honestly say TOPS funding is meaningless if colleges get budget cuts when there aren’t any budget cuts – particularly when he’s the one demanding cuts to TOPS. That money pays tuition at colleges; if it goes away and the students it’s paying for don’t attend college because they don’t have the money to do it, that is every bit a budget cut at those colleges.

It’s the lies we can’t stand. The incompetence, we’re used to.

And by the way, Edwards can spare us his love for the inspector general’s office. You don’t need an inspector general when you have an Attorney General who’s willing and capable to take on the task of rooting out public corruption; if Edwards was fully on board with that goal he wouldn’t be trying to stand in the way of an independent budget allocation for the AG’s office rather than allowing the legislature to protect the AG from his power to cut his budget arbitrarily.

My approach has been simple, spread the cuts over a broad base of services, ensure funding for our safety net hospitals in every corner of the state, especially those that train the next generation of medical professionals, and fund other services, such as TOPS, as best as we can.  While this is not ideal, it is the most responsible way to fund the government and keep services in place until the next special session when the Legislature must come back to raise additional revenue to adequately fund our priorities.

Edwards’ budget plan called for killing four of the state’s charity hospitals, not saving them. He figured that by putting that in his budget it would bluff the legislature into supporting tax increases. Henry’s budget spreads the cuts out over all nine hospitals so that all should be able to stay open without tax increases. So this is another abject lie.

Make no mistake, a second special session will happen.  Any notion of delaying that work would be disastrous and lead to hospital closures all across the state.  Remember, when a hospital closes, it closes for everyone, not just the poor and uninsured.

See?

Edwards’ commissioner of administration Jay Dardenne said the same thing yesterday. The answer ought to be that if they can’t steward the budget well enough to keep the charity hospitals open unless they get massive tax increases, then those hospitals ought to close and we ought to find a more competent governor in 2019 (or perhaps sooner). For all his bashing of Jindal, Jindal managed to keep those hospitals open without raising taxes.

It’s time to start planning for the future, not limping along year after year, as this new proposal suggests.  As a legislator, I led a bipartisan coalition to pass the only truly balanced budget during the Jindal years – one that protected higher education institutions from deeper cuts.  This was the only budget in the last eight years that did not require mid-year cuts.  I intend to govern in that same manner – bring both parties together so we can begin the process of reinvesting in Louisiana’s future.

Edwards voted to pass six of Jindal’s eight budgets that he says caused this problem. Who’s he kidding?

There is no easy fix to our problems, and it’s time for everyone to understand that.  I made a commitment to be open and honest with the people of Louisiana about the challenges before us and my proposals to solve them. I have not deviated from that commitment, and I pledge to keep this conversation going as we try to finish our work.

He’s broken that commitment with lie after lie, and he’s lying when he says he’s keeping that commitment.

Edwards is proving he’s completely worthless as Louisiana’s governor, and he’s going to end up an obstacle to resolving the state’s budget problems rather than an asset.

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