Budget requires tough choices for La.’s survival

For many Louisianans, the sight of their former governor wading through crowds in Iowa or giving addresses in different parts of the nation during his failed presidential bid was an exercise in frustration. Like a cuckolded spouse, the Bayou State endured the insult of the man they brought to the government dance not only lusting after other partners, but doing so in entirely different dance halls.

There is no question that, blinded by ambition, Bobby Jindal’s navigation of the ship of state went way off course. John Kennedy, the state’s treasurer, was among Jindal’s biggest critics at the time, and rightfully so. Gov. John Bel Edwards, who took Jindal’s place, was clear in his criticism as well.

Now the time has come for Edwards to put words into action, and guide the state out of its fiscal mess, with the help of a Legislature that acceded to many of Jindal’s more self-serving moves, the smoke-and-mirrors approach that Edwards continues to criticize. This week, all are engaged in the task of undoing follies of the pat and mapping where the state will go in the future. The Legislature has already demonstrated as a body its impotence and ineffectiveness, but has an opportunity to redeem itself by working with facts rather than political showmanship, scrutinizing as is appropriate the path presented by the governor, but also recognizing the need to professionally collaborate in solutions. While some may balk at the worst-case scenario presented by the governor, we find it difficult to believe that he or anyone else occupying his office has an overt desire to raise taxes, nor an overt desire to encourage fiscal irresponsibility or agency bloat.

Kennedy has inserted himself into the task now before the Legislature and the governor, demanding to present a Republican “equal time” statement after Edwards’ address to the state last week. While Kennedy’s past criticisms of Jindal’s infidelities and prediction of their effects gives the treasurer credential to address the situation, we found his statements last week a little too partisan, a little too smug, a little too critical of Edwards, and a little too self-serving, considering his quest to occupy David Vitter’s Senate seat.

Likewise, however, Edwards did his office and his statement of mission a disservice by focusing too heavily on Jindal’s failings and veiled references to Kennedy’s bad acting, during his address to the Legislature when the Extraordinary Special Session opened on Sunday. If Kennedy displayed ill form with his blasts at Edwards, the governor displayed ill form by lying in the mud puddle with him.

Which brings us to the Legislature, in particular the representatives and senators from the Bayou Region, and their response to the whole mess. In interviews and requests for statements from The Times, the delegation has displayed class and aplomb.

As their words and thoughts presented in this issue indicate, they appear to be taking a professional approach to the state deficit, and the onerous, Solomonesque task it has crated for them. Their words, thus far, appear to come from a problem-solving place. While their approaches of necessity will relate to differing personal and political philosophies, there are no indications of them being born of ambition or a dogmatic tack.

In expressions of their opinions regarding the responsibility charged to them so far, they appear adherent to the spirit of the governor’s admonitions against putting party above the needs of the state.

Louisiana has something in common with many of its wage earners at this critical time. Both have experienced revenue that is flat, with insult and injury added as the source of their incomes dried up. We don’t want an increase in any kind of taxes any more than anyone else does. But we recognize that some may be necessary. Local lawmakers’ apparent willingness to look at all sides of the equation is by all means laudable. We wish them well in their quest for solutions. •