NATCHITOCHES, La. -- The lone Democratic governor in the south, and the lone Democrat running for governor in Louisiana, incumbent John Bel Edwards, made it clear that his party affiliation is not the main thing that sets him apart from his opponents.
“We’ve got a record of accomplishment,” Edwards said after a campaign event in Natchitoches. “That accomplishment is possible because of the bipartisanship that we’ve been able to still have in Louisiana."
Of those accomplishments, Edwards points to the rise from a $2 billion budget shortfall to what's now an estimated surplus of $500 million. He said he has no tax cuts planned for a second term.
“We’re not going to go back a create a structural deficit that threatens our ability to make the strategic investments we need to make in things like education, for example,” Edwards said.
The governor also mentioned the $1,000 teacher pay raise implemented during this year's legislative session. He said he wants to keep the ball rolling on education.
"The No. 1 priority in my second term, overall, is an investment in early childhood education,” Edwards said. “We’ve put a $20 million down payment on it this year, so there’s $20 million more invested in early childhood this year than last year. But we’re going to expand that even greater so that more of our kids have slots in quality early childhood education and daycare settings, so that more of our kids start school ready to learn."
Along with education, the governor acknowledged great room for improvement in other areas, like a $14 billion backlog in infrastructure projects across the state. He said he plans to “continue to be as aggressive as we can be” with regard to those projects.
Edwards also wants to work with the legislature and the Department of Insurance to lower auto insurance rates for Louisianans, which are among the highest in the nation.
"One of the things we can do is regulate the (insurance) industry better,” Edwards said. “It is inexcusable that an insurance company is allowed to charge a higher premium to a widow than they charged her while she was still married before her husband died, for example, when she has a superior driving record."
Edwards also touted lower unemployment and higher health insurance rates in Louisiana during his term.
“Nobody wants to go back to where we were four years ago. That’s what my opponents promise. That’s what they prescribe for the state of Louisiana, and I’m just telling you the people of Louisiana are not going to have it,” Edwards said. “We’re going continue to move our state forward by putting people first and making sure that we put people over politics.”