Gov. John Bel Edwards outlines plans for becoming
a better Louisiana in his inauguration speech

by Tribune Staff

The word is that a new era has begun in Louisiana with the inauguration of Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Gov. Edwards has certainly started with a bang. He was sworn in on Jan. 11; and the next day, Jan. 12, he signed an executive order to accept the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act—just like he said he would, because making sure that 300,000 additional hard-working Louisianans have health insurance is the right thing to do.

In fact, Edwards said it best in his inauguration speech:

“We are here because the people of Louisiana believe we can do better.”

Of course, we can do better. And his executive order was a major step in the right direction. Still, there is more work—much more that must be done. And it can’t all be done with the stroke of a pen by executive order.

Again, Edwards captures that sentiment in his speech:

“I can’t do it alone, and the enormous challenges we face will not be resolved overnight. But together, we will accomplish our mission,” says. “Now is the time for full participation. I am calling on the legislature to work with me and pass sound solutions, and I’m calling on the people of Louisiana to constructively engage and share your thoughts and ideas.

For our part, we’ve examined Edwards’ inauguration speech to bring clarity to his plans for Louisiana in urgent areas.

We agree with the new governor, and we have reprinted excerpts from his speech because we want him to remember what he said. Of course, it was nothing new. We heard these things and more (such as plans to reduce the state’s prison population) from him on the campaign trail. They are the reasons he was elected. We have also reprinted these excepts because we want our state lawmakers to understand the same, take heed and join Edwards in doing right by the people of Louisiana; because Gov. Edwards’ is right. It MUST be done.

On the Economy, Minimum Wage and Equal Pay for Women

—“First, we need to acknowledge the harsh truths about poverty in our state.”

—“We talk a lot about our abundant natural resources, but we need to talk more about the most precious natural resource God has entrusted to us – our children. In Louisiana, 1 in 4 school- aged children live in poverty. That’s unacceptable and it MUST change.”

—“It’s unacceptable when a parent’s hard work isn’t enough to pay the bills or go to a doctor. I’ve traveled from Algiers to Zwolle and met countless single mothers working for minimum wage behind a cash register at a gas station. Often, it’s one of several jobs they have, and they still battle to make ends meet. The faces are different, but their struggles are the same.”

—“On top of not paying our workers a living wage, women in Louisiana make an average 66 cents on the dollar compared to men. We are the worst state in the union for pay equity. That is unacceptable. Not just for my daughters, but for all women.”

—“We should make a modest, but meaningful, increase to the minimum wage and the legislature should finally pass effective equal pay so that women, the economic leaders of many households, get the same pay for the same work. We know that when women do well

– children prosper too. This is the very definition of family values.”

On Higher Education

—“In the past (seven) years, we’ve cut funding for higher education by $700 million – the largest disinvestment in the country – putting campuses on the brink of bankruptcy, and sending many of our best and brightest students out of state.”

—“Tuition increases, also the highest in the nation, have priced many students out of their dreams and are making TOPS unsustainable.”

—“It’s been proven time and again that a more educated and trained workforce is our greatest long-term economic generator. So we MUST make college more affordable. We can start by ending double digit tuition hikes. We cannot fund higher education on the backs of our students. Our state should support our public higher education institutions. We must also increase need-based aid for students ready to enroll in colleges across Louisiana, and work towards a goal of funding higher education at 50 percent state support and at 50 percent tuition and fees.”

On K-12 Education

—“For K through 12 education, while we’ve had some improvements, we rank 49th in academic achievement. And while our high school graduation rate is at an all-time high, we still fall below the national average.”

—“Next, we need to treat our educators with the respect they deserve and demand the best for our children.”

—“In K through 12 education, we need to promote challenging, Louisiana standards and curriculum, maintain a meaningful accountability system and end the overuse of costly standardized testing. We should also enhance and protect local control of public education so that taxpayers, voters, and local school boards are empowered to oversee the financial and educational decisions that impact the success of our children.”

The Budget Crisis

—“We can no longer afford to lurch from year to year, cobbling together temporary fixes and expecting to realize permanent sustainability. If we don’t fix the structural budget deficit, we can’t fix any of our other problems.”

—“… our top priority must be stabilizing the budget.”

—“While all options are on the table, we’re going to make strategic budget reductions, increase efficiencies, accept OUR federal tax dollars back, and rework the failed system of tax incentives, credits and rebates, which bleed the state’s revenue and, too often, leave little to show for the spending.”

The New Orleans Tribune

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