Louisiana Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards has named two key appointees who will help guide budget policies in his administration.
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne has been tapped to serve as Edwards’ commissioner of the Division of Administration — the main budget chief for the state.
Kimberly Robinson, a former aide to then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco who has spent the past eight years in the private sector, will serve as secretary of the state Department of Revenue.
Dardenne will make $237,500 a year in the new role, and Robinson’s salary will be $250,000, according to Edwards’ transition team.
The appointments are among the first as Edwards sets out in identifying the people who will play major roles in his administration. Edwards takes office Jan. 11 and plans to call a special session on budget issues the following month.
Speculation has swirled that Dardenne would be picked to serve in the commissioner’s role. A former state senator, Dardenne chaired the chamber’s finance committee before going on to serve as secretary of state and then lieutenant governor.
“He’ll be able to draw on that knowledge his very first day,” Edwards said.
Dardenne came in fourth in the gubernatorial primary Oct. 24 then notably crossed party lines to endorse Edwards over Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter in the Nov. 21 runoff race. The move recalled Democrat Bubba Henry’s appointment as commissioner of administration in 1980 after he crossed party lines to endorse Republican David Treen in the governor’s race.
Edwards and Dardenne both say they never discussed a potential appointment until after Edwards was elected.
“I asked for nothing and he offered nothing (at the time of the endorsement). We didn’t have that discussion at all,” Dardenne said.
Robinson, meanwhile, was recently named to a special advisory committee assisting Edwards with budget policy through the transition period. She said that key to efforts at this point will be identifying proposals and the hurdles that must be overcome to pass legislation.
Some will likely require constitutional amendments that voters must approve, she said, while others could require super-majorities in both legislative chambers.
“We’re looking and evaluating what makes the most sense,” she said.
Outgoing Gov. Bobby Jindal has pledged to work with the incoming administration to ensure a smooth transfer of power.
“We are working with the administration to gather as much information as possible,” Edwards said. “We’re still in a fact-finding mode.”
Dardenne and Robinson both said Monday they plan to start working immediately.
“We have a lot of challenges in the state right now,” Dardenne said. “This is a challenge I was willing to accept.”
Dardenne joked that a different Gov. Edwards — Edwin — first sparked his interest in the state budget. Dardenne served in the state Legislature during Edwin Edwards’ administration and fought against a spending plan that would have raised taxes, developing an alternate budget proposal.
“I feel my background has prepared me for this,” Dardenne said.
Robinson has been working as an attorney specializing in state and local tax law at the Jones Walker firm.
“Kim will be a great Secretary of Revenue,” Bill Backstrom, leader of the firm’s Tax & Estates Practice Group, said in a statement. “Her experience both in public service and at Jones Walker will help Kim lead the department in the coming years.”
Robinson previously was a legal counsel to Blanco and served as a liaison to Revenue and Economic Development. She also worked for six years in the Department of Revenue’s legal office.
“It’s a pleasure to come back to public service,” Robinson said, but she added she knows the tasks ahead won’t be easy.
“We are facing serious fiscal issues, and we have to be both thoughtful and responsible and take the best path to return to the citizens of Louisiana the proper investment of the money that they send to the Capitol,” she said.
Edwards previously announced that state Sen. Ben Nevers is serving as his chief of staff.