Welcome to the official website of Jim Brown - NEW COLUMNS appear each Monday!
This site is part of Brown Publications and The Lisburn Press
You are visiting my site on: September 27, 2023
Jim Brown Audio Player


Thursday, February 18th, 2016

Baton Rouge, Louisiana


New Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has jumped head first into the abyss of state government’s seemingly endless financial problems, and his popularity is already taking hits. A recent Southern Media and Opinion Research poll has his popularity rating at a low 42%. A UNO poll has Edwards’ favorables even lower at 34.2%. There is no honeymoon for the guy who vowed, during his campaign for the state’s highest office, to clean up the mess created by his predecessor, Bobby Jindal.

What Edwards needs to quickly realize is that in politics, perception is reality. He seems to be all over the map in throwing out a litany of solutions, without first building a consensus with both legislators and the public at large. New governors shouldn’t think out loud. Edwards should be creating and setting the tone for any public debate, not just jumping into the public brawl. Here are a few examples of “shooting from the hip.”

Before taking office, Edwards announced his choice for Speaker of the House to be New Orleans Representative Walt Leger. Traditionally, Louisiana governors have a say in who the Speaker will be. But they generally work behind the scenes building a consensus for their choice. Edwards did not consult, he just announced. And did so without the votes needed to elect his pick. Leger lost by 5 votes. If a new governor, with all the patronage at his disposal, cannot come up with 5 votes, he is off to a rocky start.

State government is obviously in the middle of a major financial crisis. Edwards immediately began talking about raising taxes. And new revenue may be needed. But that’s not the first thing that should have been recommended by the new administration. The average voter thinks, with some justification, that there is government waste and fat in the budget that can be cut. Treasurer John Kennedy has been pounding on the need for budget cuts for some time.

But rather than asking Kennedy to work with the new administration, Edwards dismissed his suggestions as merely political pandering. The SMOR poll shows Kennedy as the state’s most popular politician, with a positive rating of 65, which is 43 points higher than the new governor. The public thinks Kennedy is on the right track. So if perception is reality, Edwards is making a mistake by not bringing Kennedy into the discussion.  He should have begun the debate by talking about specific cuts before there is any discussion of new taxes.

The new administration missed an early opportunity that would have brought the general public into the financial mix. Edwards could have called a special session his first week in office to endorse one constitutional amendment. Ask the voters to remove all dedications from the constitution. Remember that when voters passed the new constitution back in 1973, there were no tax dollars protected. The idea was to let the legislature set spending priorities each year. I know this well since future governor Buddy Roemer and I served as joint chairmen of the revenue committee that wrote this constitutional section.

The state holds its presidential primary on March 5th, so voters could have decided to turn loose some $2.2 billion dollars in dedicated funds. Another opportunity missed.

Finally, there is no better example of perception overtaking reality than the new Governor saying publicly that state budget cuts could put LSU’s football season at risk. As the old Cajun would say, “Cher, dat’s fightin’ words.” Relating budget cuts and LSU football is about as incendiary as you can get.

What the new governor fails to recognize is that LSU football is not just an issue involving students and alumni from the university. Watching the Tigers on the gridiron is a state pastime for even the least educated Louisianan. James Carville summed it up pretty well when he said “half the people in Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night can’t even spell LSU.”

So Governor, you might want to think these problems out a bit more before airing your opinions and potential solutions publically. And remember: No matter how rough the financial problems become, never mess with dem fightin’ Tigers.


“The truth will set you free.

But first, it will piss you off.”

Gloria Steinem

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownla.com.  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownla.com.

Leave a Reply