Louisiana’s budget is much better off under Governor Edwards. Three years ago, Louisiana faced a more than $2 billion budget deficit, the largest in our state’s history. Our hospitals and universities were suffering from years of deep cuts and unemployment was going up while our credit rating was going down.
In 2018, Governor Edwards brought together both Republicans and Democrats to forge a bipartisan, fiscally responsible budget compromise. Thanks to that bipartisan budget compromise, Louisiana cut taxes by $600 million in 2018 and is running budget surpluses for the first time in a decade. In those budget negotiations, Governor Edwards successfully fought to protect higher education, TOPS, hospitals, law enforcement funding and veterans affairs from needless and painful cuts. Now our critical priorities have reliable funding for the first time in a decade, more than two million Louisianans are working, and our credit rating is improving. With stable funding and budget surpluses, Louisiana can invest in our critical priorities without raising taxes.
Governor Edwards has made state government more efficient, cutting hundreds of millions of dollars in state government spending and reducing the number of state government contracts by 25%.
On his first day in office, Governor Edwards’ signed an executive order to expand Medicaid to provide healthcare for working people in Louisiana. That decision brought $1.85 billion federal tax dollars back home to Louisiana that were otherwise being sent to other states, is responsible for more than 19,000 jobs, and cut our uninsured rate in half. Those numbers pale in comparison to the lives that are being saved.
480,000 working Louisianans have enrolled in Medicaid Expansion. 61,000 are women who have received breast cancer screenings. 11,000 are Louisianans who had colon cancer averted after a screening. 12,000 are Louisianans now receiving treatment for previously undiagnosed diabetes. 74,000 are Louisianans now receiving Mental Health services. And 14,000 are Louisianans receiving substance abuse services. And thanks to Medicaid Expansion, Louisiana hasn’t seen a single rural hospital close its doors. That’s why Governor Edwards says expanding Medicaid was the easiest big decision he’s made as governor.
Governor Edwards is also standing up to fight efforts to take away your healthcare. He has opposed litigation that would seek to undo Medicaid Expansion and take away protections for 850,000 Louisianans who have pre-existing medical conditions. And in case efforts to take away those protections are successful, Governor Edwards supports a bipartisan solution to write protections for Louisianans with pre-existing conditions into state law.
Since Governor Edwards took office, his administration has secured more than one-hundred major economic development projects, including the largest in Louisiana history. Those projects have brought more than $30 billion in new capital investment and nearly thirty-thousand new permanent jobs. Louisiana’s economy is now bigger than it’s ever been, according to the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. In 2018, Louisiana reached its lowest unemployment rate in a decade. And the number of people working in Louisiana is near record-high levels.
Under Governor Edwards, Louisiana is attracting new companies and industries that are diversifying Louisiana’s economy. He believes the key to a strong economy is a well-educated and job-ready workforce. After suffering the largest disinvestment in the country under the previous administration, Gov. Edwards and the legislature stabilized funding for higher education. His administration is making targeted investments in education to help Louisiana’s young people fill the thousands of good-paying jobs created by technology companies like DXC in New Orleans and CGI in Lafayette.
In 2018, the Edwards Administration launched the first-ever Information Technology (IT) apprenticeship program in Louisiana. In 2018, the state worked with utility companies to establish a Line Worker Training Program at Louisiana community colleges. The Edwards Administration also launched the Louisiana Contractors Accreditation Institute, which has helped hundreds of young, emerging contractors acquire skills and become fully licensed. Under Governor Edwards, Louisiana has seen record-high employment of construction professionals. In fact, Louisiana’s FastStart program has been named the Number 1 Workforce Training Program in America every year Governor Edwards has been in office.
Governor Edwards also knows small businesses are the backbone of so many communities. That’s why Governor Edwards launched the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, to advise the governor on how his administration and the legislature can help businesses grow. The Edwards Administration has helped Louisiana’s small business owners create more than 6,000 jobs and increase their sales by more than $500 million.
But Governor Edwards knows that $7.25 an hour is not a meaningful wage in 2019, and he supports a modest but meaningful increase to Louisiana’s minimum wage. Our neighbors in other southern states like Arkansas have seen their minimum wages raised without job losses, and it’s time for Louisiana to follow suit.
Governor Edwards also believes in equal pay for equal work, and has consistently introduced and advocated for legislation to ensure that women are paid the same as men for doing the same job. Louisiana has the worst gender pay gap in the nation, and Governor Edwards is committed to fixing it.
Criminal Justice Reform
In Louisiana, Criminal Justice Reform is working to reduce our crime rate, cut recidivism in half, and save taxpayer dollars. This bipartisan legislation was written with the help of law enforcement and district attorneys and has allowed our state to shed the label of incarceration capital of the world – a title the state held for nearly 40 years. Louisiana’s criminal justice reform is now being used as a model for national reforms championed by President Trump. As the son, grandson, and great-grandson of Sheriffs, Governor Edwards knows firsthand that smarter law enforcement means safer communities. And Louisiana is leading the way to a more secure future.
The criminal justice reform proposals championed by the legislature passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2017. A strong coalition of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents joined with the religious right, the religious left, law enforcement, and the business community to implement reforms that were modeled off of efforts in other southern, conservative states like Texas and South Carolina.
In the end, the full package of bills promoted public safety, supported victims, and reinvested savings in programs that better train incarcerated individuals for life outside of prison.
It’s time for Louisiana to invest in our students and teachers. With a teaching shortage for over a decade and K-12 funding decreases across the nation, we’re not living up to the promises we made to our children. That’s why Governor Edwards wants to raise teacher pay to the southern regional average, recruit more qualified teachers, and increase funding in our classrooms. If successful, it would be the first pay raise for Louisiana’s educators in more than a decade. As the husband of a teacher, Governor Edwards knows first-hand we must invest more in education at all levels.
After Louisiana led the nation in cuts to higher education under the previous governor, Governor Edwards has stopped the cuts and stabilized funding for our universities and community colleges. Governor Edwards’ bipartisan budget compromise of 2018 prevented a 30% cut to TOPS that would’ve encouraged Louisiana’s best and brightest students to leave the state for college. Governor Edwards believes that our higher education institutions are key drivers of economic development.
As part of the largest-ever economic development deal in Louisiana’s history to bring DXC Technology to Louisiana, Governor Edwards invested $25 million in higher education to produce more Louisiana graduates with STEM degrees. Last year, Governor Edwards worked with technology firm CGI to secure an expansion of the IT Center of Excellence at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette. That expansion will bring 400 new jobs to Louisiana and build on a program to boost graduates from the University’s School of Computing & Informatics.
Governor Edwards knows first-hand the sacrifices America’s servicemen and servicewomen make for their country. As a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, Governor Edwards served eight years as an Airborne Ranger infantry officer. He commanded a parachute infantry company in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. Governor Edwards is a lifetime member of the Acadiana Chapter of the 82nd Airborne Division Association.
Governor Edwards is deeply committed to continuing to work closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs to improve the quality of healthcare available to our state’s servicemen and servicewomen. Our veterans have made sacrifices to keep us safe, and it is our duty to ensure they receive timely access to adequate healthcare when they need it. As the state faced historic deficits, demanding cuts across state government, Gov. Edwards consistently protected the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs from unnecessary cuts that would hurt Louisiana veterans.