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Governor Optimistic, Despite Challenges

Sue Lincoln
Gov. John Bel Edwards delivers his year-end press conference speech.

Unsurprisingly, Gov. John Bel Edwards delivered a positive review of 2017 during his year-end press conference Wednesday.

"Despite the challenges that lie ahead, I remain extremely optimistic about the future of our great state," he said, while standing in front of one of the mansion's Christmas trees.

"I have good reason to be this optimistic. First, it relates to jobs."

He noted the state is at its lowest unemployment rate since the Great Recession began in 2008: 4.8 percent, as of October. And he expects the November jobless rate, due out the end of this week, to be even lower.

"We have plenty of reason to be optimistic that these job numbers are going to continue for some period of time, based on the number of projects that have been announced," the governor continued, pointing to the DCX project in New Orleans, in particular.

"It's the largest economic development project in our state's history, relative to permanent direct jobs at one site — 2000 permanent direct jobs.

"The outlook for the state, in terms of the fiscal condition, is improving as well. And I think it's related largely to the job creation."

After remarking that the immediate past fiscal year ended with a surplus, the governor also said, "In the current year, we do not anticipate a mid-year deficit. And that'll be the first time in eight years."

During the course of his commentary, Edwards touched on Medicaid expansion: "We know we are saving lives, as well as money."

And he applauded this year's criminal justice reforms: "Implementation has gone smoothly."

He then moved on to the new year and Jan. 19, when he will be delivering the proposed budget that includes the fiscal cliff.

"You are going to see a balanced budget proposal that represents what it would look like if we take a billion dollars," Edwards said. "And it is so nasty, that budget will not be one that I want to implement. But it's the one I’m constitutionally obligated to deliver."

But, he added, without a legislative agreement by that date on how to fix the cliff, "I’m not going to call a special session in February."