John Bel Edwards Points To Bipartisanship In His Bid For Louisiana Governor In 2015 (Audio)
State Representative and Chair of the House Democratic Caucus John Bel Edwards (D-Amite) recently sat down with KPEL's Brandon Comeaux to discuss his run for governor in 2015, his strengths as a legislator and what he looks forward to tackling in the upcoming 2014 legislative session, which begins March 10.
We seem to be dismantling institutions that people rely upon for more opportunity and for a better life.
After serving six-turning-seven years in the Louisiana Legislature, Rep. Edwards has decided to enter the gubernatorial race because "my time in the legistature has convinced me that Louisiana is fundamentally on the wrong track in many ways...We seem to be dismantling institutions that people rely upon for more opportunity and for a better life." He went on to cite cuts to education, K-12 and higher education, as well as cuts to healthcare and mental health as being a huge concern of his. "We've been cutting and privatizing and closing and selling (which) I believe has been to the detriment of the people here in Louisiana," says Rep. Edwards. "And I think it's time we had an honest conversation about it and make a conscious decision about what direction we want to go...One of the biggest decisions we are going to have to make is whether to expand the Medicaid rolls as allowed for under the Affordable Care Act. I happen to think we're going to have to do that, otherwise we won't have a way to reimburse hospitals for the care that they are going to be required to give."
Almost anything that you get done in Louisiana in the Legislature, you've got to do it in a bipartisan way...And the good news is Louisiana is not Washington, D.C.
Rep. Edwards talked about bipartisanship and how, over his political career, he has worked with Republicans across the aisle to get things done. "Almost anything that you get done in Louisiana in the Legislature, you've got to do it in a bipartisan way...And the good news is Louisiana is not Washington, D.C., where the people in the different parties don't talk to one other," says Rep. Edwards. "We still sit down and talk and we compare ideas and try to see where there's agreement, where there's disagreement, and we try to bridge the differences so that we can get things done." He says that bipartisanship was shown last year during budget talks when, for the first time in five years, the state was able to increase its investment in K-12 education on a per pupil basis by $69 million, an effort he says he was able to spearhead. But, he says unfortunately, he feels that partisan divide has been creeping in over the past few years.
We have to make sure that the spending plan is actually responsible and something that we can continue on over the next several years
Looking ahead to the upcoming session, Rep. Edwards says we will actually have less revenue than the year before, but that Gov. Bobby Jindal is proposing that we spend more money. "We have to make sure that the spending plan is actually responsible and something that we can continue on over the next several years," says Rep. Edwards. He mentioned that legislators will have to look closely at how the governor wants to spend the money that was collected in the tax amnesty program, because "those dollars aren't going to be there forever."
Rep. Edwards did point out that he believes that Gov. Jindal has done, by and large, a good job with economic development here in Louisiana. He points out the state's unemployment rate being lower than the nation as a whole and job creation being good in Louisiana as opposed to other states.
Quite honestly, I have some real issues, both with Common Core itself and with they way that the state has implemented it
Rep. Edwards, who sits on the House Education Committee, also says he thinks we can expect to see a lot of bills directed at Common Core in this upcoming legislative session. "Quite honestly, I have some real issues, both with Common Core itself and with they way that the state has implemented it, and so we're going to try to filter through all of that and arive at a consensus so that we can protect Louisiana values and not necessarily submit ourselves to a top-down, nationwide approach to K-12 education, where we adopt national standards and a national assessment," says Rep. Edwards.
Looking at the Republican side of the 2015 governor's race, with U.S. Senator David Vitter already declaring his candidacy and a lot of talk surrounding the potential candidacies of Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne and State Treasurer John Kennedy, it's obvious that Rep. Edwards will face some tough competition. So how is he campaigning against those big names? By trying to establish "a big name for myself," says Rep. Edwards. "I'm working hard, getting around the state, meeting people in every parish and in every community trying to develop grassroots support, increase name recognition and raise money so that I can be competitive...I'm very encouraged about the results so far," says Edwards. He believes Louisiana "ought to be given a real choice" in this election. "It's my expectation at the end of the day I'll be able to convince a majority of the voters that the best direction for Louisiana is one that we allow me to be in the governor's office."
It's my expectation at the end of the day I'll be able to convince a majority of the voters that the best direction for Louisiana is one that we allow me to be in the governor's office.
To listen to Rep. Edwards complete interview, CLICK BELOW: