This afternoon Sen. John Kennedy ramped up his increasingly aggressive trolling of Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, in what looks like a pre-campaign for Edwards’ job in next year’s elections.
Earlier this week Kennedy flat-out suggested Edwards resign if the governor can’t make do with the revenues the state’s shrinking economy supplies him with, which elicited spluttering from the governor’s media flack Richard Carbo and a ducking for cover by Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser, a Republican who has allied himself with Edwards for some reason and who stated he doesn’t want Edwards’ job.
Responding to a threat over the weekend that Edwards’ administration had made, namely that unless his demands for more than a half-billion dollars in new tax increases are met Edwards would have to cancel the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, Kennedy called a telephone press conference and suggested a workaround.
The Republican senator said his bill will propose allocating Louisiana’s $1.4 billion federal allotment for the program to the state’s food banks and faith-based pantries.
“Frankly, they can probably do a better job than the bureaucrats anyway,” Kennedy said on a call with reporters.
Although the food stamp program is federal, administrating it here costs about $34 million in state money.
“If the governor abolishes the food stamp program (the bill) will give the state the option to ask the (United States Agriculture Department) to administer the program for Louisiana,” Kennedy said.
“I’m not going to let the state lose $1.4 billion because of a political spat,” Kennedy said.
It’s actually a pretty damned good idea, as there is little reason the state has to get $34 million to administer a federal program. We already know SNAP is rife with waste and misuse and Kennedy is certainly correct that there are food banks and faith-based food pantries all over Louisiana which can not only serve the nutritional needs of Louisiana’s poor but in many cases also address some of the root causes of why those folks need food stamps – something state government has never shown itself very capable of doing.
Louisiana has some 860,000 people on food stamps, which is an absolutely shameful number in a state with only 4.7 million inhabitants. Nationally, the food stamp rolls are dropping rapidly – the program is at its lowest enrollment in eight years and since President Donald Trump took office there are 2.2 million fewer people receiving SNAP benefits. We don’t have any evidence that Louisiana’s enrollment is dropping, though.
Most of all, though, it’s Kennedy calling Edwards’ bluff on his never-ending scare tactics. It’s becoming clear the governor and his staff are recognizing people aren’t interested in their doomsday rhetoric anymore, as evidenced by their response to Kennedy…
Edwards’ office did respond to Kennedy’s food stamp proposal.
“This is the first we’ve heard of the senator’s idea, and we’re glad to see that he’s finally acknowledging that there are real consequences from budget cuts that would be imposed without action from the Legislature,” said Edwards spokesman Richard Carbo. “Throughout this entire budget process the Department of Children and Family Services has been working with the federal government.
“They have given no indication that they are willing or able to do what the senator is suggesting. However, we welcome any constructive input from Sen. Kennedy, but are hopeful that the Legislature acts in the upcoming special session to resolve this problem once and for all.”
But as evidence of their tone-deafness to public opposition to their tax-hike demands, there was this…
Agency heads have said the cuts would require massive prisoner releases, the closure of both National Guard Armories and veterans cemeteries and other reductions.
On Wednesday the Louisiana Council on Aging Directors Association said 139 state-funded senior centers will be forced to close and the Medicare prescription assistance program offered through the state office will be suspended if the cuts remain in place.
“These are not scare tactics,” Edwards’ Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne said Wednesday in an interview with the Louisiana USA Today Network Editorial Board.
“This is a result of the cuts that would have to be imposed.”
If you’ve seen Dardenne’s recent appearances testifying in front of the state legislature, you’re aware that his credibility with most of the body is at a low ebb precisely because of those scare tactics.
And things are not going to improve for the governor next week when the fourth legislative session of the year and the third special session he’s called, begins and the appropriations process starts anew. The intention of House Appropriations Committee chairman Cameron Henry is to root through the state’s budget some more to look for cuts that can be made to insure Edwards can live within the taxpayers’ means without such draconian and irresponsible measures; it’s quite likely Henry will come up with ways to fund the things Edwards has threatened to kill if he doesn’t get his tax increases, and if and when Henry does that, over the objections of those agencies, the governor won’t look like a good steward of the public fisc.
Which is only going to fuel speculation about Kennedy as the next governor, something he seems keen to generate. At some point in the near future, though, pressure is going to mount on Kennedy to make a decision to run or not – because there are others considering the race who can win.
The way things are going for Edwards, in fact, there may be lots of candidates who can beat him. Whether he’s one of them or not, Kennedy is helping to create that political environment to Edwards’ displeasure.