John Bel Edwards’ State of the State address (actually it was a thinly disguised re-election campaign speech) at the opening of the legislative session contained the usual self-congratulatory remarks that we have come to expect. However, the first clue that all had not been well since his ascension to the Governorship was his early remark that “… our state is finally moving in the right direction.” Now that was an odd comment for a governor to make in his thirty-ninth month of office.
Oblivious to his unwitting admission that during most of his term the state must therefore have been moving in the wrong direction, he charged onward. Picking up exactly where he had left off in last year’s closing speech, John Bel Edwards treated us to the usual bromides to the effect that he had solved the budget crisis, restored fiscal stability, the state was much stronger and a much better place and was now back on a path to more prosperity and opportunity, etc., etc.
Unfortunately, none of these claims are true.
Despite $7B in new taxes wrung from an exhausted legislature, what we really have is a patchwork parity of state income and expenditures for exactly one year. Be assured that Louisiana will soon enough be on the brink of another fiscal cliff, and another one after that, and so on until the state can no longer raise taxes to fund its bloated government and there are too few businesses left to tax anyway.
The reasons for this sad state of affairs can be laid directly on the desk of John Bel Edwards: firstly, he broke his campaign promise to reform government and thereby avoid the need to raise our taxes; secondly, he botched the Medicaid rollout in one of his first acts as governor in 2016.
The first premise is easily provable by comparing John Bel Edwards’ 2015 campaign commercials with his actual governance while in office. The Governor’s immediate call for more taxes and his total lack of any attempt at real reform in over three years at the helm, are plain facts on the ground as the saying goes. The consequences of his deception have been catastrophic for our state. The low growth rate, high unemployment rate, and the tens of thousands who have left the state since he took office, are irrefutable proof of his failed vision and leadership. Indeed, they are the natural results of his progressive agenda, and the state has lost considerable ground under his administration as compared to our Southern neighbors.
As to the second premise, recall that in 2018 the impartial Legislative Auditor estimated that somewhere between $61M- 85.5M was being wasted every year in expenditures on people who were ineligible to be on Medicaid in the first place. The legislative auditor’s estimate has just been proved essentially correct by the Governor’s own administration, which now acknowledges that over thirty thousand Medicaid recipients were ineligible for the program. (The legislative auditor did only a cursory check of the rolls- the real level of waste is probably twice his estimate.)
Had the Medicaid expansion program been rolled out in 2016 with any provision for checking the eligibility of the applicants, a teacher pay raise would have been achievable years ago. But the problem of Medicaid fraud and waste is only going to get bigger and bigger, and this Governor is ideologically opposed to any serious attempt to fix it.
In his opening speech John Bel Edwards claimed success after success, but the truth is starkly evident all around us: government in Louisiana remains broken and unreformed, our economy is doing poorly relative to the rest of the country, and our state is at or very near the bottom in every quality of life comparison. It is time for a change!