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22.9.15

Lt. gov. candidates offer little concerning office

As typical this time every four years, candidates for Louisiana’s lieutenant governorship emphasize to the public the high-profile things they’d like to make happen from their office – except that they can’t because the powers of it have nothing to do with the policies they promote. And, given what little of relevance they have had slip, it may be with this field that’s a good thing.

Last week, the four contenders for the most insignificant statewide office met at a forum to answer a variety of questions. At it, we learned that in order to combat crime against tourists that Jefferson Parish President John Young wanted an anti-crime unit placed in New Orleans’ Vieux Carré, that Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden suggested stationing plainclothes policemen there, and that state Sen. Elbert Guillory desired more police presence there. Former Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser went a step further by leaving out the executive branch entirely and instead blamed judges for going too easy on too many criminals.

Yes, the lieutenant governor oversees the Department of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism, and the current occupant, in a cost-saving move, even dispensed with appointing a commissioner to run the thing and does so himself. But he has no power over crime enforcement, much less the judiciary.

Young, a Republican, said he would keep that up. The other two Republicans Guillory and Nungesser and Democrat Holden weren’t sure. At least that had something to do with the job, where its budget has fallen from the fiscal year 2012 Macondo oil spill peak funding of $90 million to its present budgeted $78.5 million. Other things they mentioned did not.

Guillory offered his interest in education, saying he’d use the position as a “bully pulpit” to promote that. He also mentioned that the state has too many baccalaureate-and-above institutions of higher learning. While that’s indisputable, these matters have nothing to do with job.

Holden and Young said they wanted to insert themselves into economic development efforts, which at least has a tenuous connection to their duties as it could be that promoting culture, recreation, and tourism can stimulate the economy. Of course, it must be done in a cost-effective fashion, with neither of this pair nor the other indicating they would support something like that given their comments about the state’s notorious Motion Picture Investor Tax Credit.

This past session, the Legislature and Gov. Bobby Jindal finally made a small amount of progress in reining in perhaps the most wasteful program in the state. Costing taxpayers over four bucks for every one it brings in, the change instituted a cap of $180 million annually spent to induce movies being made in the state for the next three years, in contrast to the estimated $250 million that may go out the door for films when finishing the accounting for last fiscal year. Still, given its high level and that the cap disappears beginning FY 2019, the savings will be minor and administrative rule-making will make the law close to inconsequential. Yet all four candidates expressed a desire essentially to neuter the little progress made to date by jacking up the cap.

As for the real issue, efficiency in running departmental affairs, no discussion of any significance took place. Where were propositions on continuing to make the State Library more efficient, or privatizing more operations regarding state parks, or rooting out inefficiencies through oversight? Unfortunately, voters rarely are treated to debate over these kinds of controversies because, even if these all do fall under the lieutenant governor’s purview, at the same time they don’t grab voters’ limited attention. What do are broad proclamations about hot-button issues over which the office has no control and therefore that’s what we get

So that’s the poverty of discourse the electorate typically endures from candidates for this office. And from what little relevant chatter we’ve gotten from them to date, none have related anything to earn anybody’s vote.

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