Edwards, Abraham offer conflicting ideas for Louisiana's future
As Louisiana's weather heats up, so does its race for governor. With a little less than six months to go, incumbent Democrat John Bel Edwards and his challenger, Republican U.S. Congressman Ralph Abraham, are making their cases for the state's top seat.
"We're going to continue on the path we're on today," Edwards said.
"We're going in the wrong direction," the congressman said.
The competition has even gotten spicy on social media.
The Edwards camp hammered Abraham for missing votes on Capitol Hill, something the website GovTrack.us says he's done 94 times since the start of 2019. Abraham fired back with a video claiming Edwards is allowing the state's infrastructure to crumble.
There are plenty of other issues on tap as well. As lawmakers pass the midway point in the legislative session, Edwards says he's proud Louisiana is out of its budget nightmare.
"We inherited a $2 billion budget deficit," Edwards said. "And just a lot of work had to be done, and it has been done in a balanced fashion and in a bi-partisan manner. We were able to start this fiscal year with a $600 million reduction in taxes relative to last year."
Abraham says taxes are still way too high.
"We've got the highest sales tax in the nation or second-highest," Abraham said. "It's crazy. We've got the highest severance tax on our oil. We've got the highest corporate tax in the south. We've got one of the highest income taxes in the south. That's why people are leaving. That's why businesses are leaving."
Another hot button issue - what to do with the state's Medicaid program?
Months ago, a Louisiana Legislative Auditor's report showed the state wasn't checking frequently enough to see if applicants were eligible for Medicaid, and overpaid millions of dollars to people who did not qualify for the program. Then, more than 30,000 people were kicked out of the program.
In a statement, a campaign representative for Edwards said, "In reality, an outdated system left over by Bobby Jindal was allowing some people to stay on Medicaid longer than they should have, because it checked income annually. So some people who had started making more money and were no longer eligible stayed on Medicaid for months after crossing the income threshold making them no longer eligible. It wasn’t that folks 'should’ve never been allowed in' it was just that there was a lag between them making more money and losing their eligibility to the system detecting their higher income.
"Gov. Edwards fixed that Medicaid system, so it now checks income quarterly. As a result, 30,000 people who are no longer eligible for Medicaid are being removed from the rolls."
Abraham says as a doctor, he would do better.
"It [the money] could go to our teachers," Abraham said. "It could go to our roads. You look at our problems in Louisiana and it [the money] could be directed to something good. We've got to allow that patient on that system to invest in their healthcare. They want to do it and they want to have more control on what they can do and what they can't do."
KNOE reached out to the third candidate, Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone, for an interview. Rispone never answered.
Election Day is October 12.