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.