Reflecting on his first year in office and discussing a wide range of issues that are likely to take center stage in his second year, Gov. John Bel Edwards tells The USA Today Network of Louisiana that a constitutional convention is still possible in Louisiana’s near future if structural problems in its budget and tax system can’t be fixed.
The State Task Force on Structural Changes in Budget and Tax Policy, initiated by the Legislature, presented final recommendations in November, and Edwards says he “embraces” many of them.
In specific, he says the temporary penny tax he imposed to meet urgent budget needs last year should go.
“It’s a mistake to have the nation’s highest sales tax,” he says. The task force recommended ending the tax.
Increases in oil prices may help the state’s budget yet, although Edwards says prices are still a long way from what the state needs. Oil and gas activity has increased of late, he notes, which might boost industry employment, which he says was “critically important.”
Tourism is helping the state’s bottom line, and New Orleans is coming to grips with crime problems that might affect the flow of visitors to that tourism hub. Edwards says he expects Mayor Mitch Landrieu will make important announcements soon.
Issues Edwards repeatedly espoused on the campaign trail—equal pay for women, a state minimum wage—will resurface every year until they pass, he says. Pay differences based on gender “ought to be offensive,” he said; $7.25 an hour is “not a reasonable” minimum wage.
Edwards will mark a year in office Wednesday.