Report from Louisiana: John Bel Edwards is Prepping for Re-Election

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Report from Louisiana: John Bel Edwards is Prepping for Re-Election

By: Pat Austin

SHREVE­PORT – It is less than a year until Louisiana’s next guber­na­to­r­ial elec­tion and cur­rent gov­er­nor, John Bel Edwards, is get­ting his ducks in a row.

When elec­tion day comes in Octo­ber 2019, Edwards will be able to tell vot­ers that he has added 500,000 new gov­ern­ment depen­dents to the Med­ic­aid rolls, and earned the dis­tinc­tion of pre­sid­ing over the worst state for busi­ness, accord­ing to USA Today. The Wall Street Jour­nal has accused Edwards of shak­ing down the oil indus­try, but Edwards will tell you that it was only to save the Louisiana coast­line. (In short, he issued an ulti­ma­tum demand­ing they hand over bil­lions of dol­lars for the coast­line or expect to spend those dol­lars in court, thus enrich­ing his trial lawyer bud­dies).

Sup­port­ers for Edwards also tout a “sta­ble state bud­get” as one of his accom­plish­ments, but most of us won’t for­get the long, drawn out bat­tles as he sent evic­tion let­ters to nurs­ing home patients when his bud­get wasn’t approved. The pop­u­lar TOPS col­lege schol­ar­ship pro­gram was at the top of the chop­ping block send­ing thou­sands of par­ents and col­lege stu­dents into apoplexy. In the end, nobody was evicted and the schol­ar­ships sur­vived, but not with­out much undue angst and brow beating.

Cur­rently Edwards is attempt­ing to buy the state’s teacher vote by sug­gest­ing a $1,000 annual teacher pay raise (only pen­nies of which will show up in your pay­check after taxes and insur­ance inevitably go up). He is now sug­gest­ing a raise in the min­i­mum wage, which should buy a few more votes.

Most of the state’s top news­pa­pers are able to see through the Edwards ploy. From NOLA:

The Louisiana Asso­ci­a­tion of Busi­ness and Indus­try, the National Fed­er­a­tion of Inde­pen­dent Busi­nesses and other busi­ness groups say that government-​mandated pay lev­els take dis­cre­tion and decision-​making away from busi­ness own­ers and may end up actu­ally reduc­ing the num­ber of jobs. GOP law­mak­ers are par­tial to the busi­ness argu­ment and may not be thrilled about giv­ing Edwards a vic­tory in the mid­dle of his re-​election campaign.

The gov­er­nor may have a lit­tle bet­ter shot at get­ting his “top pri­or­ity” of a $1,000 raise for teach­ers and maybe even some­thing like the $500 a year he wants for sup­port work­ers, although the same dynamic is at play. And Repub­li­cans will be even more eager to point out that it looks like a cam­paign ploy to keep the pow­er­ful teacher unions on his side…..Even Edwards’ sig­na­ture first-​term accom­plish­ment, the Med­ic­aid expan­sion, is becom­ing more com­pli­cated after a recent report by Leg­isla­tive Audi­tor Daryl Purpera found that the Louisiana Depart­ment of Health may have spent any­where from $61.6 to $85.5 mil­lion more than it should on Med­ic­aid recip­i­ents who were not eli­gi­ble for the program.

It is the nature of Louisiana politics.

The most obvi­ous con­tender to step up against Edwards so far is U.S. Sen­a­tor John Kennedy, a vocal, out­spo­ken critic of nearly every Edwards move. There was some talk of U.S. Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Steve Scalise tak­ing a run at Edwards, but he says no. If we end up with a Kennedy-​Edwards race, it’s sure to be a very col­or­ful cam­paign; Kennedy is noth­ing if not outspoken.

Expect things to start heat­ing up very soon.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it goes in Shreve­port and is the author of Cane River Bohemia, avail­able from Ama­zon and LSU Press. Fol­low her on Insta­gram @patbecker25 and on Twit­ter @paustin110.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – It is less than a year until Louisiana’s next gubernatorial election and current governor, John Bel Edwards, is getting his ducks in a row.

When election day comes in October 2019, Edwards will be able to tell voters that he has added 500,000 new government dependents to the Medicaid rolls, and earned the distinction of presiding over the worst state for business, according to USA Today.  The Wall Street Journal has accused Edwards of shaking down the oil industry, but Edwards will tell you that it was only to save the Louisiana coastline.  (In short, he issued an ultimatum demanding they hand over billions of dollars for the coastline or expect to spend those dollars in court, thus enriching his trial lawyer buddies).

Supporters for Edwards also tout a “stable state budget” as one of his accomplishments, but most of us won’t forget the long, drawn out battles as he sent eviction letters to nursing home patients when his budget wasn’t approved.  The popular TOPS college scholarship program was at the top of the chopping block sending thousands of parents and college students into apoplexy.  In the end, nobody was evicted and the scholarships survived, but not without much undue angst and brow beating.

Currently Edwards is attempting to buy the state’s teacher vote by suggesting a $1,000 annual teacher pay raise (only pennies of which will show up in your paycheck after taxes and insurance inevitably go up).  He is now suggesting a raise in the minimum wage, which should buy a few more votes.

Most of the state’s top newspapers are able to see through the Edwards ploy.  From NOLA:

The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, the National Federation of Independent Businesses and other business groups say that government-mandated pay levels take discretion and decision-making away from business owners and may end up actually reducing the number of jobs. GOP lawmakers are partial to the business argument and may not be thrilled about giving Edwards a victory in the middle of his re-election campaign.

The governor may have a little better shot at getting his “top priority” of a $1,000 raise for teachers and maybe even something like the $500 a year he wants for support workers, although the same dynamic is at play. And Republicans will be even more eager to point out that it looks like a campaign ploy to keep the powerful teacher unions on his side…..Even Edwards’ signature first-term accomplishment, the Medicaid expansion, is becoming more complicated after a recent report by Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera found that the Louisiana Department of Health may have spent anywhere from $61.6 to $85.5 million more than it should on Medicaid recipients who were not eligible for the program.

It is the nature of Louisiana politics.

The most obvious contender to step up against Edwards so far is U.S. Senator John Kennedy, a vocal, outspoken critic of nearly every Edwards move.  There was some talk of U.S. Representative Steve Scalise taking a run at Edwards, but he says no.  If we end up with a Kennedy-Edwards race, it’s sure to be a very colorful campaign; Kennedy is nothing if not outspoken.

Expect things to start heating up very soon.

 

Pat Austin blogs at And So it goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia, available from Amazon and LSU Press.  Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and on Twitter @paustin110.