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Governor Candidates' Camaraderie Now Showing Cracks

Courtesy lpb.org

Without David Vitter in attendance, the Wednesday night debate put on by Louisiana Public Broadcasting and the Council for a Better Louisiana had Jay Dardenne, John Bel Edwards and Scott Angelle delving into the issues affecting the state.

The candidates were asked for specifics on the special session each has promised first thing after taking office.

“I think that special session will have to dig us out of from under some problems that have been created with the current year budget,” Dardenne said.

“We’re $400-million short. That’ll be the focus of the first special session,” John Bel Edwards stated. “The second special session will address the billion-dollar shortfall we have in the fiscal year starting July the first.”

But Angelle said, “Let us not set our sights so low as to have a lot of drama about the current year. What we need to be about is a special session in February that allows us to take a look at the long-term fixes of this state.”

Angelle said he believes there’s enough money in the state general fund to accommodate all needs, if funding is based on effectiveness.

“I don’t believe tax exemptions or tax rebates ought to be emotional decisions. I think they ought to be informed by economists. And I would move to have an exemption review conference established in the state that puts every one of them through a review process.”

Dardenne responded, “The exemption review conference or committee is just not practical. The Legislature needs to be that conference.”

Edwards was blunt.

“We can’t pretend that that frees up $2-billion to spend elsewhere,” he replied.

Perhaps it’s campaign fatigue or the fact that there’s just over a week left to influence voters, but this was the first of several reality checks for Angelle.

A question on funding for early childhood education had Angelle talking about one local program.

“I have been so impressed by a rural parish north of Baton Rouge called West Feliciana,” Angelle said, remarking that West Feliciana has not depended on state funding to enact universal early childhood education.

“West Feliciana Parish is blessed with a nuclear plant that makes it one of the wealthiest parishes in the state,” Dardenne noted.

When asked about making sure BP settlement money would be used only for coastal restoration, Angelle promised, “I will ask the Legislature to criminalize at a felony level any misspending, any misappropriation, of any of those funds.”

To which Dardenne responded, “Scott, that would already be the law.”

Senator Vitter did attend last night’s forum at Louisiana Tech, and we’ll have more on that Monday.