How Petty And Vindictive Is John Bel Edwards? Just Look At His Capital Outlay Vetoes

The Baton Rouge Advocate did a pretty good job of covering this latest example of Edwards’ governing style…

Acadiana lost $26.6 million in proposed construction projects with the stroke of Gov. John Bel Edwards veto pen Wednesday.

Twenty-nine projects were part of the 40 items struck from the state’s annual construction budget by Edwards using his line-item veto authority.

Most of the Republican House members of the Acadiana delegation steadfastly oppose Edwards’ efforts to raise revenues through taxes to cover the costs of promised government services.

The bulk of rejected spending authorizations in House Bill 2, called capital outlay, were for projects in Iberia, Lafayette and St. Martin parishes, represented by House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia; and from Vermilion Parish, represented mostly Republican Rep. Blake Miguez, of Erath.

A frequent and ardent critic of Edwards’ initiatives to balance the state budget using increased revenues, Miguez says government needs to be smaller and the budget can be balanced by reducing state spending. He says his constituents are paying the price for his opposing the governor.

“I know he’s playing politics,” Miguez said of Edwards’ line-item vetoes. “There are other ways to get the message across than telling people that none of the money they sent to Baton Rouge is coming back to their parish for needed improvements, roads and bridges.”

Edwards cut authorization for $2.19 million from eight projects in Vermilion Parish, including drainage improvements and bridge repairs.

“Our fiscal challenges are holding us back from the strategic investments that we need to be making in critical infrastructure projects around the state,” Edwards said in his statement. He noted that major infrastructure improvements have been approved for every region of the state.

“I promised to reform the way we manage our capital outlay program so that it is fair, realistic and strategic in nature,” Edwards said.

Edwards scratched $1.8 million for 11 projects in Iberia Parish, almost all of them in Barras’ district. Barras did not return a call and a text seeking comment.

This coming on the heels of Edwards vetoing three bills last week that would have given the state legislature the power to do a deep dive into how Louisiana’s $30 billion state government spends its money.

We’ve heard time and again from state legislators that Edwards will vituperatively berate them for making votes against his agenda and threaten to veto projects in their districts. He follows through on those threats.

Barras and Miguez’ districts were the sites of 19 of the 40 projects the governor cut. He cut three more in Bossier Parish, which is represented by Raymond Crews and Dodie Horton – two steadfast fiscal conservatives.

And then there was I-12 in St. Tammany Parish, which was the scene of a horrendous car wreck a week and a half ago. When Mark Wright, the conservative state representative in whose district the wreck happened – at an exit ramp the locals have considered a death trap for some time – addressed the matter with Edwards’ Department of Transportation and Development secretary Shawn Wilson, Wright was told there was nothing substantive that could be done because the state doesn’t have the money. That didn’t sit well with St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister, at all.

None of this is particularly shocking or surprising. What’s significant about it is how blatant Edwards’ actions are with that veto pen. Before, it was Jefferson Parish getting hit out of Edwards’ pique with Rep. Cameron Henry, and the governor was vetoing drainage projects that would keep Metairie Country Club, in Henry’s district, from flooding. Now it’s Vermilion Parish, in Miguez’ district, which flooded badly in 2016, having all its drainage improvements vetoed.

These aren’t rodeo arenas or reservoirs turning property owned by legislators’ relatives into waterfront estates. They’re roads and canals – meat and potatoes projects.

It would be one thing if these vetoes were scaring the legislators getting hit. They aren’t. All they’re doing is solidifying the opposition to the governor. And if he thinks this next special session he called is going to go much better than the one which just blew up, he might be suffering from a bit of delusional optimism.

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