Baton Rouge Advocate columnist and LSU-Shreveport political scientist professor Jeff Sadow took note of Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ outburst at the end of Louisiana’s regular legislative session to the extent that its end without a budget constituted an “epic failure of leadership,” and Sadow wasn’t impressed.
According to Sadow, who appeared this morning at KEEL Radio in Shreveport this morning, for Edwards it’s all about growing government. He echoes something we’ve said here at the Hayride – as has House Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry – namely, that the governor is not afraid of a budget which relies on what’s likely an over-optimistic forecast from the Revenue Estimating Conference. As Sadow and Henry have noted, if the REC follows its usual pattern and it turns out that they’ve overshot the state’s revenue as they have in 13 of their last 15 tries, that will create a midyear budget crisis.
You might think a midyear budget crisis is an unwanted thing, but John Bel Edwards thinks it might be a good excuse to push through a tax increase in a special session – and the more urgent the crisis the better. Politically, Edwards’ camp believes they can profit by wearing down the Republican anti-tax opposition with tales of horror caused by budget shortfalls (the loss of college football, NOW waivers, TOPS and other goodies), and when enough taxes are raised to meet his budget needs his opponents will have been weakened by their losses, which the theory says will cost them credibility with the GOP base.
This is, of course, a fundamental misunderstanding of the Louisiana electorate. Large majorities of the public don’t want increased taxes and do want decreased spending. The more Edwards spoils for urgent tax fights the more likely he is to accelerate the decline of his approval rating.
It’s not leadership to continuously oppose those you plan to lead. Edwards has done no work to change the public’s mind on taxes, and there is little reason anyone will give him credibility should he create a crisis to force such a fight in a special session this winter.
Henry, and Sadow, and the writers at this site, will be waiting to say “We told you so” when the REC projection turns out to be excessively rosy and the midyear deficit results. There is no reason to believe that deficit won’t be widely blamed on Edwards.