Governor to turn listening tour into laughing pad

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Gov. John Bel Edwards’ business roundtable meetings are continuing across the state and he has about three remaining on his schedule. But to what end? What will come of this process? For more than a month the governor has been gathering with CEOs and company representatives to hear what they have to say about next year’s “fiscal cliff,” as Edwards calls it. It’s a budget shortfall expected to eclipse $1 billion. According to a spokesperson, Edwards’ office is expected to compile the information gleaned from these meetings and share it with lawmakers and others sometime in late October. Supporters suspect that includes sharing a few ideas of his own that bubbled to the surface during this process. Those who have taken part in the meetings across the state say Edwards has been more of a listener and hasn’t gone as far as to roll out any kind of legislative plan. But in nearly all of the gatherings there has been vocal support for returning to the recommendations made last year by a special budget and tax task force. While Edwards has been touring the state so has Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, who has been meeting with lawmakers. The speaker and the governor actually held their second meeting last week to discuss the 2018 legislative year. Barras told the Associated Press recently that he hopes to have a plan together by January that the House can get behind. The governor’s supporters, however, are concerned about that timeline. They worry a new plan revealed at the top of the year won’t allow enough time to organize a special session before the regular session — an option the governor has said he will not pursue unless the House can show a path forward. State GOP has big vote next meeting The Republican State Central Committee has canceled its meeting for the fourth quarter of 2017, which means the next time it gathers it will vote on the new chairman of the party. The RSCC is the party’s guiding body and it last selected GOP Chairman Roger Villere for the top job. Villere, though, is stepping down. The election scheduled for March of next year and the campaigning has already started. State Rep. Julie Emerson of Carencro is the latest to announce for the position but she’s definitely not alone. Also actively campaigning for the chair gig are longtime party activist Charlie Buckels of Lafayette, New Orleans attorney Louis Gurvich and Baton Rouge consultant Scott Wilfong. Other names to watch as possible late entries include state Rep. Barry Ivey of Central and Baton Rouge-area businessmen Scott McKnight and Derek Babcock. How will the surplus be spent? Tax collections performed better than expected last fiscal year, which ended June 30, and the state is now sitting on a $140 million surplus. It’s a rare treat for the state to have extra money to spend, but it can only be used for certain one-time expenses such as coastal infrastructure projects, construction and debt payments. Additionally, 10 percent overall must be used on debt payments and 25 percent is redirected to the so-called Rainy Day Fund, which is the state’s emergency savings account. Lawmakers used $99 million from the fund in February and House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, wants to put the surplus into the account. Americans for Prosperity’s Louisiana chapter is on the same page and has been calling on state officials to “replenish the Rainy Day Fund. Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, has urged patience and recommended that the administration and Legislature take some time to make the right decision. Gov. John Bel Edwards has said he’s open to different ideas. Political History: Share Our Wealth, post-Kingfish This feature recently reflected on the death of Huey P. Long, so it’s only natural to move forward with that storyline and explore what happened to the Kingfish’s Share Our Wealth program. As you can imagine, Long’s ambitious national political organization fell a little flat, almost immediately, without its lead architect and presidential candidate. Here’s an account from The Long Legacy Project, which has a digital hub at HueyLong.com: “Following Huey Long’s death, the political heirs to his national Share Our Wealth movement agreed to support Franklin Roosevelt in the 1936 election in exchange for political favors. Called ‘The Second Louisiana Purchase’ by political observers, Roosevelt halted federal investigations into Long’s political machine and millions of federal dollars were funneled to Louisiana, which had previously received little aid while Long challenged Roosevelt. Most of the money was pocketed by public officials and businessmen in a wave of corruption known nationally as ‘The Louisiana Scandals.’ Long’s political adversaries sought to posthumously link Long to the corruption of his successors. Without a committed leader, the national Share Our Wealth movement lost its momentum, and the political muscle of millions of Share Our Wealth club members was squandered.” They Said It “For every economist there’s an equal and opposite economist — and they’re both usually wrong.” —U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, in a floor speech from last week “We don’t owe you free college for being average.” —Former Rep. Vic Stelly, on TOPS, to the Kiwanis Club of South Lake Charles, in The American Press