Recently, a letter to the editor was published criticizing me and the organization I represent, LABI, primarily because (1) I have expressed concerns with the spending and tax plans of Gov. John Bel Edwards and (2) I once worked in the Bobby Jindal administration. The same day that the letter was published, two super PACS closely aligned with the governor took to social media to do the same. A few days earlier, the governor’s press secretary and commissioner of administration had taken the same angle in separate media comments to try and personally discredit me and the organization for disagreeing with the governor’s policies. I hope this is not the beginning of a new trend to focus more on personal attacks rather than bipartisan policy debates. 

For the record, LABI was founded in 1975 and is Louisiana’s Chamber of Commerce and manufacturing association. We have always stood up for policies that encourage economic growth and free enterprise. Our members come in all shapes and sizes, representing a wide variety of industries, employers and workers. We have worked closely with policymakers from all parties and perspectives on a wide range of issues important to Louisiana. 

Related

I did work for Bobby Jindal throughout his first term and for roughly six months into his second term. During my time of service, I am quite proud of many reforms we accomplished, such as monumental education reforms to empower poor families with more choices, a clear focus on job creation that still drives our economy today and the restructuring of the failing charity hospital system to one that is more cost-effective and focused on health outcomes. While there, I worked with many strong leaders, including folks like Mark Cooper (Edwards’ current chief of staff) and Paul Rainwater (the man Edwards has wisely begun using to lead his flood recovery efforts in Washington), among others. That team was smart, hardworking, bipartisan and passionate for Louisiana ... which is why it is no surprise Edwards chose to bring several of them into his own administration’s team. 

This session, I look forward to working with leaders from both parties to find a solution that stabilizes our budget through a combination of smart tax and spending reforms. Yes, it will take both to do this right. Partisanship and the politics of personal destruction will only make this effort harder. 

Make no mistake. I am proud of who I am, what I stand for and the opportunities I have had to serve this great state. 

No politician in the history of this state can claim to be perfect. To do so would be a lie. Bobby Jindal didn’t do everything right and he didn’t do everything wrong. The same goes for Governor Edwards.

Stephen Waguespack

president and CEO, Louisiana Association of Business and Industry

Baton Rouge