Productive summer shows Governor Edwards’ capabilities

Caroline Davenport, Contributing Writer

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This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

This summer, the eyes of the state and nation were on Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards as he handled the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling and the flooding across the state. In addition, the governor also dealt with new tax laws and construction projects.

Edwards, despite criticism, has deftly navigated the many issues that arose this summer and made strides in several areas for people across the state. 

Edwards kicked off the summer by signing an impressively large number of bills into law, many related to changes in the tax code. It is unsurprising that Edwards tackled tax reform as he had previously emphasized it in several addresses to the legislature. 

A few highlights from the dozens of bills he signed into law this summer include laws that reduce the individual income tax deduction for net capital gains, establish an annual tax on health maintenance organizations, institute tax records confidentiality and require certain nonprofits file reports annually to receive sales tax exemptions. 

Unfortunately, after compromising with the majority Republican legislature, the bills signed into law did not accomplish everything Edwards had hoped. They made a significant dent, however, in addressing the broken fiscal policy and economy of Louisiana.

Bills concerning infrastructure and construction were another highlight of the summer. The most important bill mandates that Louisiana will invest an additional $10 million to the planning phase of an interchange along I-10 and Loyola Avenue that will improve access to the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. Through this bill and others, Edwards effectively addressed a highly pertinent issue: the reconstruction of Louisiana’s failing infrastructure.   

In addition to his economic and infrastructural reforms, other actions that Edwards took earlier in 2016 came to fruition this summer. On July 1, approximately 300,000 Louisianians gained access to Medicaid due to an executive order Edwards signed in January. 

On July 5, Edwards announced a plan for Louisiana Economic Development to conduct a review of the state’s Motion Picture Production Tax Credit program that aims to ensure that the Louisiana film and television industry is sustainable and profitable for years to come. Both of these initiatives will greatly help the people of Louisiana.  

Many of the aforementioned new laws were beneficial to Louisianians. One law, however, sticks out as a severe blow. Cuts to the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students, a popular scholarship program for Louisiana residents seeking a post-secondary education, will mean that students and their families will have to pay more of their tuition. TOPS will no longer match rising tuition costs. This law will contribute to a more balanced budget but risks hurting citizens who wish to further their education. 

Edwards is a new governor — he was only sworn in on January 11 of this year — and Louisianians have carefully watched his moves. His actions as a representative of District 72 in the Louisiana House of Representatives gave some idea of his potential as governor, but it was not clear how he would handle the larger role. Many questioned how much good a Democratic governor could do in a heavily Republican state.  

In four months, Edwards will celebrate his one-year anniversary of taking office. So far he has proven to be a calm and focused leader who desires to help the residents of Louisiana. 

Edwards’ actions strongly reflect his Amite heritage — amite being French for “friend” — as he makes his stance as a friend to both Louisiana and its citizens clear.  

Caroline is a freshman at Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached at [email protected]