A$3 million campaign war chest makes the Gov. John Bel Edwards re-election prospects look bright on the surface, but nothing in life is guaranteed.
His response to a multitude of natural disasters and turbulence with the Alton Sterling shooting and subsequent police ambush slayings earned him the respect of even his staunchest critics. It brought out his leadership qualities and gave him the persona of someone in control.
Even so, he needs a big win. In the second year of office, he needs to drill a grand slam out the park in the bottom of the ninth with two outs – a dose of Warren Morris nostalgia there – to keep his re-election hopes strong in a state which has become a Republican stronghold.
The budget picture includes an estimated $400 million deficit going into the 2018 fiscal year. The expiration of the temporary one-cent sales tax – and the imminent “fiscal cliff” – could leave the state with $1 billion less going into FY2018.
Barring a miracle, a solution to the shortfall will not be a pretty fix. In defense of JBE, he inherited a budget mess from the Jindal Administration, which would have taken years to resolve, regardless of who succeeded the now-obscure former governor.
Political analyst John Couvillion believes JBE’s best bet could come with road improvements.
“A gas tax passed by the Legislature, along with adequately funded road projects, would get a lot of gratitude from voters,” he told the Press Club of Baton Rouge at its March 13 meeting.
Traffic poses one of the biggest problems for every man and woman in Louisiana. As in the case of a natural disaster, it does not discriminate.
Few things can guarantee a bad mood as effectively as a rush-hour traffic tie-up. I can prove it in the form of the popped blood vessels on the palm of my hand after slamming my hand on the steering wheel.
It’s a problem in all four corners of the state, along with many areas in between.
Traffic is not the only issue.
The condition of roadways and bridges continues to deteriorate at the same time the number of automobiles on our highways increases.
Potholes dot many high-traffic roadways through Louisiana. It leads to plenty of wear and tear, along with a more treacherous drive.
Passage of a gasoline tax – perhaps as high as 17 cents – will pose the biggest roadblock. It’s hard to fathom a Republican-led House and Senate would give the green light to a gasoline tax, even though it’s based on consumption.
Many believe a tax in the wake of one of the worst years for natural disasters would rile constituents.
At the same time, many constituents may believe the benefits from improved roadways and safer bridges would make the fuel tax worth every penny.
Dr. Shawn Wilson, secretary of the state Department of Transportation and Development, has pushed for a hike in the gas tax since he became DOTD chief under Gov. Edwards.
Voters last approved a gasoline tax in 1987. But the 16-cent fuel tax, adjusted to inflation, has withered to 7.5 cents per gallon.
The road improvements from the gasoline tax could give Gov. Edwards a smoother ride into a second term. It would not have full effect unless it comes in the upcoming session, largely because of the time it takes to the get wheels turning on road projects.
A platform built on road improvements would give his re-election hopes far more mileage than a quick fix on what has become a budget stalemate.
Without it, he has no guarantee where the re-election road will take him.