Edwards uses veto as payback?

Jeff Sadow

State Reps. Dodie Horton and Raymond Crews, it could be worse. You could be state Rep. Blake Miguez or House Speaker Taylor Barras.

Last week, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law Louisiana’s fiscal year 2019 capital outlay budget. It spends $3.6 billion, with $1.6 million of that in cash.

However, Edwards also sliced out $39 million worth through his use of the line item veto. He used that to excise 40 projects, or about a tenth of all – and they mostly fell upon spending in the districts of Republicans who have opposed Edwards’ tax-and-spend agenda.

That includes Republicans Crews and Horton, who have voted consistently against Edwards’ wishes, most recently by opposing efforts to reinstitute a sales tax increase. In Horton’s district, Edwards axed $675,000 for lighting down Barksdale Boulevard in Bossier City, that would have fixed the stretch increasingly unreliably lit. Edwards excised $520,000 for lighting at Bossier Parish Community College, located in Crews’ district (although because of the tardiness of this request, it would have required another change in law to authorize.)

Funding neither doesn’t threaten the republic, but the canceling does make life a bit more inconvenient for motorists, pedestrians, and users of BPCC event facilities. It also serves as payback by Edwards, with the intent for voters to think the pair less effective legislators by their not bringing home the bacon.

Of course, the state budgets hundreds of millions of dollars a year of state dollars to fund local wants. This happens as the high homestead exemption starves parishes of property tax revenue. A more sensible arrangement would lower the exemption while cutting taxes in other ways, giving local governments more leeway in deciding what they want to do and how to afford it while reducing state taxpayer subsidization, thereby inducing greater accountability into a system that gives voters better ability to see where their money goes and who decides that.

Absent these reforms, this current convoluted approach will keep distorting policy-making and give governors a chance to act vindictively. That worked to the disadvantage of Crews and Horton, but their punishments pale in comparison to those levied against Republicans Barras and Miguez.

Almost half the projects kayoed by Edwards would have come to fruition in their two districts. Most dealt with infrastructure, some of it critical to flood control and traffic safety. Barras as House speaker has done more to retard higher taxes and spending than any other legislator. Miguez has become one of the governor’s most persistent public critics.

And, naturally, Edwards left plenty of fluff in the appropriations. Activity centers, playgrounds, parks, a golf course, a fishing pier, a boat launch, a theater, visitors’ centers, an after-school center, marketplaces, pavilions, a bike path, and recreation complexes (including one in Springhill) totaling in the tens of millions of dollars he let receive funding. Tens of millions more will go to nonprofits.

Regrettably, Edwards would rather settle political scores that protect people and property. At least Bossier Parish avoided that extreme.

Jeff Sadow is an associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University Shreveport. His views do not necessarily express those of his employer or this newspaper.

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