Gov. John Bel Edwards met with The Advocate editorial board and Capitol bureau on Monday, touching on a variety of issues in an hour-long discussion.
In addition to taxes and the state budget, Edwards offered his thoughts on a U.S. House Oversight Committee hearing in which Louisiana was blasted for its flood response. He also was asked about Republican lawmakers in the Louisiana House and his stance on the abolition of the death penalty.
Here are abbreviated versions of his answers on those issues. For a lengthier transcript of the interview, click here.
On the state facing a a "fiscal cliff" in 2018, when $1.3 billion in temporary taxes will expire.
JBE: While it’s more than a year away, this is the last fiscal session between now and then. Obviously, if we don’t address the issue, we would have to come back into a special session in order to do that.
The point I'm trying to make, the overarching point I was trying to make is that there won’t be anything to consider this fall or next spring that is any more appetizing than the choice we have right now. I think we ought to go ahead and confront our challenges head on and fix these problems.
The Louisiana Legislature on Monday begins its 168th regular session since statehood facing …
On the U.S. House Oversight Committee hearing earlier this month:
JBE: It appeared to me as someone in the room that it was just a politically orchestrated show. That's unfortunate because there are real issues that need to be resolved, like the duplication of benefits problem, like the fact that you don't really have a good housing solution right now for the short term.
I was not terribly surprised because that's the way Congress operates, but I was disappointed.
Tension over Louisiana's recovery from last year's catastrophic floods became the focus of a…
On the Republican majority in the Louisiana House and not finding consensus on cuts:
JBE: I can't understand how they think they are being serious, responsible legislators. I said it today, I can respect somebody who votes no on revenue, but then endorse the cuts. Stand behind them. They won't do it.
On efforts to boost the minimum wage in Louisiana:
JBE: $8.50 over two years is a very modest, but what I believe is a very meaningful increase for the people of Louisiana that I think will do a lot of good. I don't understand the opposition to that. I don't know that it's principled or that it can be well articulated that in why 2017 someone ought to be working for seven dollars and a quarter an hour.
On criminal justice reform:
JBE: It just makes sense for all the right reasons to say we are going to focus on non-violent offenders, those property crime offenders and those low-level drug offenders, and that's where we can make the biggest difference. It's obviously the largest effort in criminal justice reform that we've undertaken in Louisiana.
A thorny reality confronts Louisiana lawmakers as they begin to consider a series of measure…
On the abolition of the death penalty:
JBE: I acknowledge that it costs a lot in terms of the criminal justice system to have the death penalty from what I understand the indigent defenders could take $10 million right away and put it towards other types of cases that make up the overwhelming majority of their caseload but I am not endorsing moving away from the death penalty in Louisiana.
On whether he would veto legislation that would overturn the death penalty:
JBE: I’m not going to commit to that either. It’s not part of my package. It's not part of the criminal justice reinforcement task force work.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said he’s interested in hearing the debate about abolishing the death …
Note: In attendance from The Advocate were: President and Publisher Dan Shea; executive editor Peter Kovacs; managing editor Fred Kalmbach; editorial page editor Danny Heitman; columnists Stephanie Grace and Lanny Keller; Capitol bureau reporters Elizabeth Crisp, Mark Ballard, Will Sentell and Tyler Bridges; and photographer Bill Feig.
From the Edwards administration: Department of Revenue Secretary Kimberly Robinson, special counsel Erin Monroe Wesley and communications director Richard Carbo.