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Will Governor Candidates "Share Our Wealth"?

As we look ahead to deciding on the next governor of Louisiana, we’ve been also looking back, taking a cue from Huey Long, known for the “Share our Wealth” plan under the motto, “Every Man a King”.

Jan Moller with the Louisiana Budget Project points out that every issue that plagues the state – and the reason we end up on the bottom of so many “good” lists – can be traced back to Louisiana’s ranking as the third poorest state in the nation.

“Poverty is an overriding issue in Louisiana,” Moller says. “It has been an issue for a long time, and it’s one that the candidates aren’t talking much about on the campaign trail.”

The latest U.S. Census data shows 20-percent of Louisiana’s adults and 30-percent of its children are below the federal poverty threshold. He also says the key number to remember is 49-percent—the portion of Louisiana households that are ‘liquid asset limited’.

“Half of the households in this state don’t have enough money, can’t access enough money, to survive for 3 months,” Moller explains.

So how do we combat poverty?

“The answer to poverty is education,” Jay Dardenne states. ” The most important thing we can do in this state to move people out of poverty is to improve educational system and most of all, provide hope for people who are caught up in a cycle of poverty.”   

That’s a solid long-term solution. But for Louisiana’s 49-percent who are one car repair bill away from keeping the lights on, one job loss away from being homeless, what about helping now, by – say -- raising the minimum wage?

Scott Angelle says, “I do not believe raising the minimum wage is the answer.  I believe raising minimum expectations is really more what we ought to look at. The way we improve the wages in this state is to invest in a community and technical college program.”

Dardenne also opposes that idea.

“I would not support raising the minimum wage, which has proven to be in various areas, counter-productive, particularly resulting in less jobs, less opportunities for young people, less new jobs for teenagers who are going to get their first jobs. I don’t think that’s the answer.” Dardenne responds.

But John Bel Edwards says that’s a false argument on two fronts.

“The only problem about saying that it reduces the number of jobs available is that that statement just simply isn’t true.  That has never been the experience with an increase in the minimum wage. Secondly, many minimum wage workers are not entry-level workers in high school or college, but in fact, many are single mothers with children, working for $7.25 an hour, the same it’s been since 2009.”   

Edwards adds, “I absolutely support increasing the minimum wage. And by the way, it’s only part of the program to reduce poverty in Louisiana.  The other part is we’re going to end the gender pay gap that exists in LA, we’re going to double the Earned Income Tax Credit and finally, we’re going to expand the Medicaid program.”

David vitter hasn’t addressed poverty or the minimum wage in this campaign, not even in his multi-faceted plan, available on his website. But in 2014 he did vote against raising the federal minimum wage.