With considerable division between some of the Republican leaders in the State Capitol and John Bel Edwards, one perhaps would be surprised to hear the governor talk rather buoyantly about the future of Louisiana.
“If we can create a tax system that is stable, predictable and fair, we’re on the verge of an era of prosperity,” the governor told editors and reporters of The Advocate last week, even as the budget prognosis for the new financial year was not looking good.
It’s a theme he has elaborated on at other occasions. Good things are happening, Edwards says, and the state government should not become, because of budget deadlocks, the defaulting partner of the private sector, messing up progress in education and other areas of competitiveness.
Take unemployment, still not great compared to the nation, 37th among the states, but that’s far better than when Edwards took office in January 2016. The newest report is 4.6 percent unemployment.
Better than that, the governor said: “We are also seeing signs of wage growth in a number of sectors of employment.”
Obviously, he’s not solely responsible for the economy; neither is any executive — local state or national. But a president, governor or mayor typically gets blamed for what happens on his watch, whether or not he was directly responsible. Like President Donald Trump basking in the glory of today’s stock market boom, the governor is taking a bow for good jobs numbers.
He frequently cites the major success of DXC Technology, a national tech company planning to put 2,000 jobs on Poydras Street in New Orleans.
“It’s excellent that we’re now talking about positive things” in the state, Edwards said.
As Edwards is the first to acknowledge, a lot of work remains to be done in Louisiana. Recovery from floods across the state is not complete in many areas, including the greater Baton Rouge region. Recovery from the rapid fall in the price of oil continues in the oil patch, particularly in hard-hit areas like Acadiana. The number of total jobs is not rising, and out-migration — folks leaving for greener pastures — remains a problem for Louisiana, economists say.
Nor is the state government’s contribution to prosperity as successful as he or we wish to see. The budget crisis since January 2016 has been a cause of frustration to the governor and vexation to state agencies and institutions, including colleges. With proper funding, education can move the state forward. Instead, we see an endless wrangle at the State Capitol seemingly focused on partisanship more than progress.
So many good things are happening that even a cobbled-together compromise on the budget — and that may be the best we can hope for at this date — might not derail Louisiana’s current momentum. But we’d like to see the capitol more in sync with the state this spring, as the 2018 Legislature gathers.