‘Prosperity and opportunity’
Gov. Edwards shares enthusiasm about state during visit to Lake Charles
Louisiana is on a “much better path toward prosperity and opportunity” since state lawmakers compromised on a plan to stabilize the budget, Gov. John Bel Edwards said during a stop Thursday at the Lake Charles Civic Center.
“It only took seven special sessions and three regular sessions, but who’s counting?” Edwards told members of the Louisiana Municipal Association. “We got there and we can either be focused on how frustrating it was, how hard it was and how long it took or, like me, you can be excited about where Louisiana is today.”
Since the budget was passed, Edwards said the state has reduced its tax burden by more than $550 million. He said the state’s general fund expenditures have also dropped by more than $200 million.
“And we did so in a strategic way,” he said. “We were able to stabilize funding and for a second time in a row, fully fund higher education and our TOPS program.”
Moody’s Investors Service has taken Louisiana off its watch list, and Edwards said he expects the state’s rating to increase.
“The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported last week that Louisiana’s economy grew faster than 35 other states in the first quarter of 2018, and Business Insider rated Louisiana No. 2 in the south for economic development,” he said.
More Louisiana residents are working now than ever before, with unemployment at a 10-year low, Edwards said.
“Last year no other state’s unemployment declined more than Louisiana,” he said.
Expanding the Medicaid program in Louisiana “was the single biggest, easiest decision” Edwards said he will make as governor. When he took office in 2016, he said 24 percent of Louisiana residents were uninsured, “one of the highest rankings” nationwide.
“Today it’s less than one in 10,” Edwards said.
Edwards said 470,000 working poor people have health insurance today who did not have it when he was elected, “most of them for the first time in their life.”
The expansion helped the state save $343 million last year and an estimated $265 million in 2018, he said.
He said Louisiana is “achieving better health outcomes for its people so that their lives are better, they are more productive, they can continue to work, and for many of them, they can continue to live.”
One area the state could improve upon is its infrastructure and wastewater systems, Edwards said. Putting bandages on “underlying issues” only leads to more expensive problems over time, he said.
“When we got that far behind on proper maintenance, it is almost impossible to catch up,” Edwards said.
He said the Louisiana section of the American Society of Civil Engineers has estimated the state needs $5.3 billion in drinking water improvements over the next 20 years, and another $4.6 billion to maintain and repair those improvements.
“I think we can all agree that we’re not going to spend $10 billion on our systems,” he said. “We just don’t have that kind of money, but it doesn’t mean we can’t be smart about how we approach these issues.”
He said he has tasked a rural water infrastructure committee to recommend funding sources and criteria for receiving.
“We want to help communities find solutions, no more Band-Aids,” he said.
‘We were able to stabilize funding and for a second year in a row, fully fund higher eduction and our TOPS program.
Gov. John Bel Edwards
Gov. John Bel Edwards speaks with members of the Louisiana Municipal Association on Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018 before an appearance at the first Historically Black College and University Roundup later in the day.
Gov. John Bel Edwards spoke to the Louisiana Municipal Association at the Lake Charles Civic Center.