As leader of the state House Republicans, state Rep. Lance Harris of Alexandria is often at odds with Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, and even with Jay Dardenne, the Republican budget officer for the state.
When he spoke to the Press Club of Baton Rouge on Monday, Harris reiterated that his caucus was willing to work with the governor on the budget. It’s a new talking point, kind of a kinder-and-gentler obstructionism than the caucus has displayed so far in the Edwards administration, where GOP leadership has blocked many bills sought by the governor. “We had some folks who just weren’t being realistic about solving this problem,” Harris said, aiming the comment at the administration as well as Democrats in the House.
In fact, the entire talk was part of a charm offensive, with the caucus feeling its message isn’t getting through against Edwards’ bully pulpit, as Harris accurately described the governor’s advantages in budget discussions. The caucus has also taken to social media videos to sell its arguments.
“We’ve been having right at 400,000 views of those videos,” Harris enthused.
But if this sounds like a totally partisan discussion, Harris also went out of his way to praise something about Edwards’ budgets, that they have ended the common practice during former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s days: one-time money.
The Edwards/Dardenne budget does not use one-time money in the operating budget, Harris said. He recalled that it was one of his points of agreement as a GOP “fiscal hawk,” or opponent of one-time financing, during Edwards’ time as Democratic leader in the House for two terms. The Democrats and fiscal hawks sometimes combined to give Jindal’s budget bills a hard time.
Perhaps, as the June 30 deadline for a budget looms, the old days of common purpose will reassert themselves. Or not.