That’s the reality area legislators and local officials must accept regarding flood control. Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed – again – state money for the River Styx pump station. The repairs would decrease the chances of flooding in the northeastern part of the parish, near CenturyLink headquarters and surrounding neighborhoods that suffered high water encroachment in 2016.
The year after that, area legislators placed the request in the state’s capital outlay budget. They did so near the end of the process because funding attempts by local government to procure federal dollars didn’t materialize. This also caused a Priority 5 assignment to the project, the lowest. The governor, despite the previous year’s flooding, vetoed it.
The Edwards Administration cited both reasons for his veto of the oversubscribed bill: its low priority and that local officials should have used other monies to pay for it – although Edwards did not veto similar items elsewhere at the same priority level nor others that didn’t seem nearly as important. A year later, with outside money sources still unavailable, the districts’ GOP state Rep. Jay Morris and state Sen. Mike Walsworth resubmitted the request as Priority 2. In the interim, Morris stressed to the Administration how the upgrade to a facility on its last legs would protect the headquarters of Louisiana’s largest company and the area nearby.
So, naturally, Edwards vetoed the line item again. Keep in mind that Morris and Walsworth typically oppose most of his agenda. By way of recent example, Morris voted against HB 12 of the special session just concluded that Edwards and Democrats pushed, a bill that would have reinstituted a half-cent sales tax increase – and he did it again to prevent it coming to another vote. These happened just after Walsworth provided one of the few dissenting votes in the Senate against the measure.
The excuses Edwards made for the veto last time, which seemed dubious then, simply don’t wash this time. It’s personal: Edwards is a vindictive politician, and he doesn’t like the trouble these legislators stir up, so he tries to punish them.
And citizens become the collateral damage, as Edwards hopes that they’ll blame Morris and Walsworth for not getting jobs done and thereby keep them out of office, with the vetoes serving both as retribution and a warning to other legislators. Morris can run for reelection, and even as Walsworth faces term limits, he has been linked to trying to return to the House or to run for Secretary of State, and passed on a try for West Monroe mayor earlier this year.
Yet it’s not just the people who may suffer at Edwards’ hand. Having acquired a large Colorado firm in 2016, from where its new chief executive comes and still lives, CenturyLink has committed to staying in Monroe only through 2020. The company claims it has no plans to move, but at one point neither did the Fortune 500 corporations that abandoned New Orleans in the past two decades. Unwillingness by the state to protect CenturyLink property would moot the point of the infrastructure it has put in place over the last few years and make for much less of an incentive to stay.
Edwards even double-dipped on Walsworth, with some apparent animosity. For a second year running he also excised a state road widening project in West Monroe, despite that the representative from that area, Republican Frank Hoffman, has served as an Edwards ally on education bills.
Of course, preferably the state's capital outlay process wouldn't encourage the state to fund essentially local matters, but it does. Regardless, Edwards’ pettiness does nobody any good. And Ouachita residents will have to pay the price for it.
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