The Edwards campaign has pushed a theme that gubernatorial runoff opponent Republican Eddie Rispone gives little in the way of details about his issue preferences, which media figures and special interests supporting him gleefully have picked up. Edwards himself alleged that “[n]obody has a clue what this man would do if he were governor.” My Shana Alexander last week claimed so, as have newspaper opinion columnists.
But just because something gets asserted and echoed doesn’t make it true. Let’s review the latest example of an opinion writer going wrong on this subject.
Melinda Deslatte pens a weekly piece on behalf of the Associated Press. She wrote this week that Rispone has said he would revise criminal justice changes made in 2017 in consultation with stakeholders but left it at that; wants to cut taxes yet spend more on Taylor Opportunity Program for Students award recipients and early childhood education; and boost transportation outlays while rejecting an increase in the gas tax. She concludes that this makes him too vague on the issues.
However, there’s no mystery to doing any of this. Plenty of debate over these items point the way, and Rispone himself in interviews and candidate forums has addressed these. Regarding the criminal justice changes, these haven’t saved the state any money even as the jury is out on whether these have increased criminal activity (it will take time to create and collect data to understand whether beneficiaries of the change commit new crimes at a higher rate), so Rispone’s argument that the package of changes needs adjustment makes sense, something about which even supporters of the changes agree.
There’s also nothing mysterious about cutting and not raising taxes while spending more in a selective fashion. Mainly due to changes in federal tax laws that made taxpayers cough up more, Louisiana has run its largest budget surpluses over three years since the hurricane disasters of 2005, with this year’s hitting nearly $535 million. With Rispone’s requested increases taking up relatively small amounts – such as covering tuition expenses full under TOPS would cost only $9 million – tax cuts easily can occur while simultaneously spending more.
And, as Deslatte admits Rispone has articulated, changing priorities in using transportation dollars can steer more money to roads and bridges without gas tax hikes. Redirecting transportation money away from state subsidization to local governments and private interests could mean an extra $130 million annually for state traffic infrastructure.
Perhaps the chattering classes became spoiled over Republican former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s dissemination of reams of policy preferences during his initial campaign. Still, it takes little imagination to understand the perfect plausibility of Rispone’s arguments, even if he doesn’t give exacting chapter-and-verse renditions of how he’ll get there.
At least he tells the truth, which perhaps explains why, as Deslatte did note, Edwards has given little detail about a second term agenda. Edwards, who during his 2015 campaign trotted out his alma mater’s honor code to anyone who would listen, lied about various aspects of his agenda in contravention to that code, which probably explains why he hasn’t brought it up at all this time to avoid his unmasking on the issue of trust.
Incurious journalists parroting a line propagated by the Edwards campaign and its allies serves as yet another way to distract from Edwards’ poor record on economic growth – reinforced by a recent report that showed Louisiana was one of only a few states not to have recovered fully from the 2007-09 recession. Voters need to cut through this noise to the essential – Edwards has done badly, Rispone promises something plausibly different, and that the former offers more of the same that has left Louisiana the worst or second-worst state in which to live and second-worst for business while the latter articulates a different approach.