Louisiana governor candidates came to New Orleans: Here’s the most interesting stuff they said

The four major gubernatorial candidates — Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, state Rep. John Bel Edwards and U.S. Sen. David Vitter — participated in a Friday forum.

The event sponsored by Greater New Orleans Inc., Baton Rouge Area Chamber and other major business groups in South Louisiana. The candidates were able to see the questions asked ahead of time.

Here are the most interesting candidate quotes from the event:

“David, it is especially nice to see you.” – John Bel Edwards

Edwards’ comment is meant to draw attention to the fact that Vitter hasn’t participated in as many candidates forums — particularly ones where questions aren’t provided ahead of time — as the other people in the race.

The U.S. Senator has to navigate a more difficult schedule than others. After all, his day job takes him out of the state on a regular basis. Still, he raised eyebrows when he didn’t show up for an event that was Louisiana Public Broadcasting event carried live on television across the state.

“Just turn on the TV John Bel. You’ll see me all the time.” – David Vitter

So Edwards threw some mud — and Vitter responded with a pretty good comeback.

The Senator is subtly referencing his ability to buy more television advertising than any other candidate in the race because he has more money than the three other people running combined.

Vitter’s fundraising is especially strong when compared to Edwards’. The state representative has finished last in the money race so far, despite being the only Democrat running.

“We can’t even blame this on Nick Saban.” – Scott Angelle

This is Angelle’s creative way of saying that Louisiana needs to take responsibility for its budget woes.

The comment was specifically in reference to that fact that much of Louisiana’s budget is restricted through dedications and locked-in funding, which makes controlling spending more difficult.

There are provisions in state law that prohibit many areas of the state budget from being cut. This means that when the budget needs to be reduced, higher education money — one of the only areas of the budget that doesn’t enjoy extra protections — is often the only thing that can be slashed easily.

All four gubernatorial candidates says this is a problem. They all say they want to look at ways to “undedicate” state revenue to inject more flexibility into the budget.

“My economic development secretary is not going to be paid what Stephen Moret has been paid.” – Jay Dardenne 

This was one of many shots taken at Gov. Bobby Jindal during the forum. Moret is Jindal’s former secretary for Louisiana Economic Development. He made over $300,000 while serving in the government position.

“If we could cut our way to prosperity, we would be there today.” – John Bel Edwards

Edwards defended the Louisiana Legislature’s decision to roll back some tax credits and other benefits during the state lawmaking session this past spring. Lawmakers had to close a $1.6 billion budget gap, and temporarily eliminated some business incentives to do it.

The business groups holding Firday candidates’ forum aren’t pleased with the Legislature’s recent changes to the tax code. Many believe that state spending cuts should have been made instead.

But Edwards — as well as Dardenne — said there wasn’t enough fat in the state budget to cut $1.6 billion of spending without doing permanent damage to higher education. Other solutions — such as rolling back business tax benefits — had to be employed.

Vitter and Angelle were a bit more sympathetic to the business community, saying there were areas to cut state spending that didn’t relate to business incentives. They did not provide a detailed plan for how they would get to $1.6 billion in savings just through government-spending cuts however.

“The fiscal note process in Louisiana is like the 10-day weather note. It’s always wrong.” – Scott Angelle 

This statement is a bit “in the weeds” regarding state legislative procedure, but still important.

A “fiscal note” is the financial analysis done for each bill that determines how much money the legislation might generate — or cost — the state government.

Angelle wants to reform this analysis because he says the fiscal note are often wrong. He said it is hard to determine how much money a tax credit or incentive is going to cost the state, when the estimates aren’t usually correct.

“A smart person who works for the state, who is overwhelmed, has to produce a fiscal note in a short period of time,” he said.

“We don’t need a Washington politician to bring Washington politics to Louisiana.” – Jay Dardenne 

This is a common knock on Vitter. As one of the presumed frontrunners, Vitter gets attacked more often than the other candidates, particularly by Edwards and Dardenne.

“Normal Baton Rouge politics isn’t good enough.”  – David Vitter 

The Senator has started hitting back when it comes to all of the “Washington politics” swipes.

These insult is not only directed at Edwards, Dardenne and Angelle — who are all state elected officials — but also Jindal.

Read the full article here: http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/09/governors_forum_new_orleans.html