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Early pedestrian Edwards papers likely best of bunch

Much like when the Khmer Rouge took power in Cambodia over four decades ago, the Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards Administration seems set upon rewriting history to declare the day it took office as beginning the Year Zero, if the first transition team report released serves as any indicator.

The Economic Development Committee's conclusions were followed by the predictable Transportation version, which inevitably and sensibly argued for looking for more efficient use of infrastructure dollars, directing all of them to roads needs, before implementing increased taxation. Naturally, to follow this means putting a greater strain on the operating budget, since some of the money that could go to roads ends up spent on the state police and other matters, but beggaring other parts of state government did not concern this group’s focus only on transportation priorities.

Other than for transportation needs, the economic development recommendations actually may turn out the least controversial of the several documents that will come out over the course of the month. It lauds the state’s Department of Economic Development, citing statistics to position it as a national leader – all without mentioning it made the progress to gain this status through the two terms of former Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Of course, given that Edwards in his years in state government invented plenty of reasons, on rare occasion actually accurately, to criticize Jindal, when credit accrues to his immediate predecessor it seems that gets ignored as if he never existed. Indeed, the conclusions also do not refer to Jindal policies that assisted economic growth, such as tax cuts and ethics reform, even as it admits that the state recently experienced “private-sector job growth … among the best in the South and in America” and more in-migration than out-migration, but could not bear to give credit where it was due, instead arguing that superior bureaucracy brought it all about.

So naturally it concentrates on the use of government as a director and manager of economic growth as a strategy going forward. Some of it comes off as little more than boilerplate along the lines of economic growth occurs with higher quality of life and particularly better education, while other portions delve into more technocratic adjustments. Most suggestions won’t harm economic development and might even help it.

But it does throw in one trendy stinker on the topic of “inclusion,” alleging that too many firms led or owned by white males get too much state money in contracts. Cutting to the chase, “LED … and all other state agencies should adopt policies that incentivize and reward small, local, minority and women-owned business inclusion metrics,” whatever the last couple of words mean.

The idea that “disadvantaged business enterprises” – defined as those owned by non-white, non-males not disabled – get a little extra attention in and of itself can work without costing taxpayers more than necessary. In contract bidding, such businesses often find themselves less informed about potential jobs and less experienced in putting together credible bids for these.

However, the state only should make extra efforts to publicize available contract opportunities; for example, creating a mailing list that informs DBE’s about contract bids coming up and about seminars on how to bid for state jobs, etc. In no way should it grant preferential status to DBE bids, the result of which means taxpayers fork out more dollars than by going with the lowest bidder. Anything beyond a nominal expenditure wastes the public’s money, as demonstrated in the cases of Shreveport, Alexandria, and New Orleans with their own versions that serve more to redistribute citizens’ wealth than to work efficiently on their behalf.

This also includes programs that force quotas onto larger contractors, in specifying that certain percentages of the work must go to non-white/non-males/disabled/local residents regarding themselves and counting any subcontractors. Again, open competition through the market, not overregulated redistribution guided by state industrial policy, provides the most efficient use of taxpayer resources and best stimulates economic growth.

Interestingly, in another part the report ends up internally contradictory. It stumps for more rational use of tax exceptions, then stumps for some of these directly controlled by DED which probably cost more money than the tax revenues they create (but avoids mentioning the most wasteful of all, the Motion Picture Investor Tax Credit). It also can’t help but shill for unions by recommending the shuttling of state dollars that could go into community colleges for workforce training into unions to do the same.

Yet in the final analysis the document presents only a watered-down version of liberal industrial policy. Considering what’s coming from other transition teams, it with the transportation version may end up the least offensive of the bunch. In those to come, expect wholesale flogging of Jindal Administration policies while neglecting to address, much less salute, those that brought the state benefits when these clash with the leftist ethos that will permeate their texts.

After all, we must forget the past policy failures of liberalism, which controlled this state until recent years, that Edwards wants to resurrect despite their delivering the state far from the top in all good indicators and close to the bottom in all of the bad , because with his inauguration begins the Year Zero.

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