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“Cleaning Up Another Republican Mess”: Louisiana Ready To Make Big Gains Through Medicaid Expansion

Few states need Medicaid expansion more than Louisiana, which made it all the more difficult to justify former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R) refusal to consider the policy. By all appearances, the Republican made a plainly political decision without regard for the state’s needs: Jindal wanted to be president (yes, of the United States), so he took a firm stand against “Obamacare.”

Louisiana’s current governor, Democrat John Bel Edwards, ran on a platform of Medicaid expansion through the Affordable Care Act, won his election fairly easily, and immediately adopted the policy. The Times-Picayune in New Orleans reported yesterday that the governor went directly to the legislature to explain why this was the smart move for Louisiana.

Medicaid expansion is estimated to save Louisiana $677 million over the next five years and more than $1 billion over the next decade, Department of Health and Hospitals officials told Senate Health and Welfare Committee members Monday (April 18).

The cost estimates came after Gov. John Bel Edwards testified before the committee about his decision to expand Medicaid eligibility to about 375,000 people between July 1 and June 30, 2017. DHH officials will make an effort in the coming weeks to educate legislators about the benefits of Medicaid expansion and what they said was misinformation given to the Legislature to justify not expanding Medicaid under former Gov. Bobby Jindal.

“I believe the folks in the prior administration who said we couldn’t afford Medicaid expansion, they took the worst case scenario on every variable,” Edwards told lawmakers in the GOP-led legislature. “If you look at what we’re doing in light of experience in other states … we know we’re going to save money.”

And he knows this because it’s true.

I can appreciate why this may seem a little counter-intuitive. Ordinarily, when state policymakers recommend expanding benefits to struggling families, critics will respond, “We’d like to help, but we can’t afford it and we’re not willing to raise taxes.”

But Medicaid expansion is one of those policies in which states get to do both: participating states receive federal funds to implement the program, while expanding coverage for low-income families who would otherwise go uninsured. At the same time, hospitals’ finances are strengthened as medical facilities see fewer patients who can’t pay their bills.

Since implementation of the Affordable Care Act began, how many states have found Medicaid expansion hurt state budgets? None. Republicans will be quick to argue that someday, maybe, in the future, the fiscal challenges will become more acute, but given pre-ACA reimbursement rates, there’s no reason to believe they’re correct.

It’s exactly why every governor with access to a calculator – including plenty of red-state Republicans – have found the arithmetic undeniable.

As for Louisiana in particular, as we talked about last week, the state really is having an “elections have consequences” moment right now. Gov. Edwards, the region’s only Democratic governor, hasn’t been in office long, but he’s already making strides to clean up the Republican mess he inherited.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 19, 2016

April 20, 2016 Posted by | Bobby Jindal, John Bel Edwards, Louisiana, Medicaid Expansion | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Worst Has Yet To Come”: Scrambling To Clean Up A Failed Republican Governor’s Mess

In November, Louisiana’s John Bel Edwards received some great news: by a wide margin, the Democrat had been elected governor. At the same time, however, he also received some rather dreadful news: Edwards was now the governor of Louisiana, responsible for cleaning up a catastrophic mess left by Republican Bobby Jindal.

As the New York Times reported yesterday, Pelican State policymakers – a Democratic governor’s office working with a Republican-led legislature – are moving forward with a plan to undo some of what Jindal did, at least temporarily.

Facing the threat of layoffs, cancellation of university classes and a suspension of health care services, state lawmakers avoided more than $900 million in budget cuts by passing a package of tax increases and spending reductions Wednesday in the closing moments of a special session.

But large shortfalls still plague the state and will continue to play out as a regular session convenes on Monday.

The package includes restructuring the state sales tax – removing exemptions and increasing it a penny – but at Republicans’ insistence, the increases are temporary. The New York Times article added that the new agreement also includes “higher taxes on cigarettes, alcohol, car rentals, cellphones, landlines and short-term rooms booked through websites.” Policymakers also “rolled back a tax credit enjoyed by the insurance industry, and they approved a framework for collecting sales taxes from online retailers.”

Despite this, the package didn’t close all of the state’s massive budget shortfall, and more cuts are on the way.

Bobby Jindal’s failures were just that bad. The Washington Post added last week:

Already, the state of Louisiana had gutted university spending and depleted its rainy-day funds. It had cut 30,000 employees and furloughed others. It had slashed the number of child services staffers, including those devoted to foster family recruitment, and young abuse victims for the first time were spending nights at government offices.

And then, the state’s new governor, John Bel Edwards (D), came on TV and said the worst was yet to come.

The source of the crisis is hardly a mystery. As the Post reported, experts have found that Louisiana’s structural budget deficit “emerged and then grew under former governor Bobby Jindal, who, during his eight years in office, reduced the state’s revenue by offering tax breaks to the middle class and wealthy. He also created new subsidies aimed at luring and keeping businesses. Those policies, state data show, didn’t deliver the desired economic growth.”

In other words, a right-wing governor, working with a Republican legislature, tried to implement a conservative governing agenda. The result is a disaster Louisiana is going to struggle for years to clean up.

If you missed Rachel’s segment last week on states damaged by Republican governance, it’s worth revisiting – especially for its focus on Louisiana.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 11, 2016

March 13, 2016 Posted by | Bobby Jindal, Louisiana, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Diaper Dandy is Done”: I’m Just Glad To See David Vitter Go; I Never Liked That Man

Louisiana state Rep. John Bel Edwards soundly defeated David Vitter in yesterday’s gubernatorial election. Not only that, but in his concession speech, Vitter announced that he won’t seek reelection to the U.S. Senate next year. In other words, David Vitter is finished as a consequential politician, done in mainly by an eight year old prostitution scandal, but also by the immense unpopularity of the sitting Republican governor Bobby Jindal.

The Democratic Party is encouraged to see a flicker of life in the Deep South, although progressives need to keep things in perspective.

From the start of his run, Edwards knew any chance of victory hinged on distinguishing himself from the prevailing image of Democrats among voters. In meetings with small groups in rural parishes, he touted his opposition to abortion and strong support for gun ownership.

The devil is in the details when it comes to opposing abortion and supporting gun ownership. What kinds of bills would be radical enough that Edwards would veto them? Is there a different line than there would be for a Republican governor?

In some ways, it’s already a defeat if Democratic candidates feel that they need to concede the Republican position on these two very important issues in order to get a hearing on other policies. And there’s a price they have to pay when their party is more divided on issues than the Republicans. It waters down the message.

On the other hand, more than anything else, it was the Democrats’ ability to unite around one candidate while the Republicans were slugging it out in a nasty primary that brought them success. “Edwards” is a big name in Louisiana politics, but John Bel Edwards’s clan is not related to former Governor Edwin Edwards. In a pre-election analysis, The Daily Beast‘s Jason Berry did a comprehensive examination of the new Edwards family power in the Bayou State. Here’s part of that:

It also helps Edwards, 49, that his brother, Daniel, 47, is Tangipahoa Parish sheriff—a fourth-generation sheriff in a sprawling family of lawyers, politicians, and law enforcement officials with deep Louisiana roots.

Tangipahoa is a heavily rural civil parish whose seat, the town of Amite (population 4,141) is 82 miles north of New Orleans. Edwards’s law firm is in Amite; he lives in nearby Roseland (population 1,165). For much of the last century, the parish, which is 30 percent African-American, was known as “Bloody Tangipahoa,” with a history of lawlessness that included a gruesome chapter involving the Ku Klux Klan. That stigma changed under Sheriff Frank Edwards, John Bel’s father.

“Frank Edwards was one of the first sheriffs that hired blacks,” says Donald Bell, the African-American pastor of New Life Outreach Ministries in the town of Hammond.

“Frank was balanced. Everybody loved him. John Bel had good training from his daddy. I was close to Frank. He lived and died politics. If Frank told you, ‘Jerry can’t beat John,’ you could bet that Jerry wasn’t gonna beat John. And Frank would give you two, three reasons why. He was a good Catholic guy. They were committed, just like John Bel—he doesn’t miss Mass. John Bel is a people person, down to earth, what you see is what you get.”

According to Pastor Bell, Edwards has always gotten along well with the local NAACP, and he actually won a state House seat that had been drawn up to be held by a black politician. This ability to bridge the racial divide helps explain how he managed to avoid any Democratic challengers in the primary. And, of course, it was his father who paved the way.

With the endorsement of state law enforcement organizations, his strong record at West Point and as an Airborne Ranger, his family’s good reputation for piety and positive race relations, and an opponent who was best known for paying prostitutes to dress him in a diaper, it would probably be a mistake to see this election result as some kind of bellwether for anything.

The Democrats simply had a much better candidate.

They also didn’t have Bobby Jindal hanging around their neck like an anvil. Like all Louisiana Republicans these days, Vitter tried to destroy his opponent by tying him to President Obama, but this tactic was neutralized by Edwards’ efforts to tie Vitter to Jindal. This left Vitter dependent on social issues, like guns and abortion, but there weren’t any meaningful distinctions between the two candidates on those issues, and there wasn’t much question which candidate had the better record for being a good family man.

And, so, we got a result that is surprising but really was foreseeable if you drilled down into the specifics of the race.

As for what happens now, the The Times-Picayune believes that Gov.-Elect Edwards will bring Medicaid expansion to the state and that teachers unions will have more influence. Edwards will try to deliver on a campaign promise to double funding for higher education, but Jindal has left the state’s finances a mess, and he’ll need to work with a legislature dominated by Republicans.

The Democrat has promised to govern from the middle and is expected to appoint Democrats and Republicans alike to cabinet positions. For example, [Republican Lt. Governor Jay] Dardenne is likely on a short list to fill a high-profile position in the Edwards administration.

Edwards may have to govern in a bipartisan manner, not just by choice. The governor-elect has a serious budget crisis on his hands, and will need a two-thirds vote of the GOP-controlled Legislature for many of his proposals to fix Louisiana’s finances.

“I think that the Legislature and executive branch should cooperate fully,” said Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, who is likely to remain atop the state senate in 2016.

But not everyone is excited to see Edwards head up the executive office. The Democrat makes many of the state’s leading business groups nervous. Edwards has not been supportive of the school choice movement, including charter schools and the state voucher program. Business leaders also believe he is more inclined to roll back their tax credits and incentive programs to fix the state’s budget problems than a Republican would be.

Edwards will have to find an enormous amount of money somewhere to shore up the state’s finances. Louisiana is wrestling with a $500 million shortfall in its current budget cycle and a projected $1 billion budget gap in the next fiscal year.

I’m no expert on Louisiana’s legislature, so I don’t know whether Medicaid expansion will get done or not. I do know that Edwards will have four years to rebuild the Democratic Party and that a lot of people will get experience working in his administration.

Above all, I’m just glad to see David Vitter go. I never liked that man.

 

By: Martin Longman, Web Editor for the Washington Monthly; Ten Miles Square, November 22, 2015

November 29, 2015 Posted by | Bobby Jindal, David Vitter, John Bel Edwards, Louisiana | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Jindal Runs Out Of Options On Marriage Rights”: There Are No Other Courts, No More Appeals

No one seriously expected Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) to celebrate the Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality. On the contrary, the far-right governor, eager to impress conservatives as he hits the presidential campaign trail, was expected to complain bitterly about the civil-rights breakthrough.

But watching the lengths Jindal has gone to while resisting the ruling has been pretty remarkable.

As of late last week, Jindal said he understood what the high court had ruled, but he wasn’t prepared to allow Louisiana to officially recognize same-sex marriages. As recently as yesterday afternoon, the Republican governor still didn’t want to honor the law.

It took a while, but it seems the Jindal administration has officially, literally run out of options. TPM reported this afternoon:

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) said he would wait for a third and final federal court ruling declaring bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional before recognizing gay marriages in the state, and Thursday morning a district judge gave him just that.

Thursday, federal District Judge Martin Feldman reversed his previous ruling upholding the state’s gay marriage ban, as reported by The Times-Picuyane…. The order was a procedural motion to address the litigation specific to Louisiana in light of the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision, which effectively legalized same-sex marriage nationwide Friday.

So, looking back over the last couple of weeks, Jindal effectively said, “Let’s wait to see what the Supreme Court says.” Once the justices endorsed marriage equality, the governor effectively responded, “Well, let’s wait to see what the 5th Circuit says.”

And once the appeals court agreed with the Supreme Court, Jindal was left with, “Well, let’s wait to see what the district court says.”

There are no other courts. There are no more appeals. Jindal will be able to boast to GOP primary voters and caucus goers about resisting as long as he could, but marriage equality now applies to the whole country, including Louisiana, whether the governor likes it or not.

For what it’s worth, let’s not forget that Jindal’s broader reaction to the ruling hasn’t been especially constructive. MSNBC’s Adam Howard reported last weekend:

The Louisiana Republican, who launched a longshot bid for the presidency last week, suggested that the 5-4 ruling, which made same-sex marriage legal throughout the nation, was cause for disbanding the entire Supreme Court.

“The Supreme Court is completely out of control, making laws on their own, and has become a public opinion poll instead of a judicial body,” Jindal said in a statement on Friday. “If we want to save some money, let’s just get rid of the court.”

Republicans routinely like to argue that President Obama has a radical, lawless vision of governing. He’s never suggested, in print or anywhere else, the possible elimination of the Supreme Court itself.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 2, 2015

July 7, 2015 Posted by | Bobby Jindal, Louisiana, Marriage Equality | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Jindal Generating Between 0% And 1% Support”: Nation’s Least Popular Governor To Seek Presidency

A poll was released in Louisiana about a month ago that showed President Obama’s approval rating in the Pelican State is down to 42%. It didn’t come as too big of a surprise, of course – Louisiana is a deep-red state in the Deep South, and the president lost his re-election bid here by 17 points.

What was surprising, though, was that the same poll found that Obama was four points more popular in Louisiana than Gov. Bobby Jindal (R). Indeed, by some measures, Jindal is the single least popular governor in the United States.

With such ignominy in mind, one might assume the far-right governor would want to run away. Jindal, however, has decided to run for president – yes, of the United States. MSNBC’s Jane C. Timm reported this morning:

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is expected to declare his candidacy for president here on Wednesday, which would make him the 13th Republican to get into the race, after years of injecting himself into the national conversation on everything from terrorism in the Middle East to education.

Speaking from Kenner, in the Louisiana district that first elected Jindal to Congress in 2004, Jindal is set to pitch himself as the candidate who can offer a viable Republican alternative to everything from Common Core to Obamacare.

It’s safe to say Jindal, who’s wrapping up his second term this year, faces incredibly long, Pataki-like odds of success. Nearly all recent polling shows the Louisianan generating between 0% and 1% support, putting him roughly last in a crowded GOP field, and effectively guaranteeing that he will not participate in the upcoming Republican primary debates.

And to a very real extent, this is a rare example of political meritocracy working effectively. Candidates for national office aren’t supposed to parlay failure into promotions.

I’ve kept an eye on Jindal for a long while, marveling at his bizarre approach to governing, but I still believe the best summary of the governor’s troubles came just a few months ago.

Campaigning in April in New Hampshire, Jindal offered an amazing explanation for his lack of popularity in his home state.

“[W]hen I was elected to my first term we won in the primaries, something that had never been done before by a non-incumbent. My second election, my re-election, we got the largest percentage of the vote ever, over two-thirds.

“And I’m here to tell you, my popularity has certainly dropped at least 15 to 20 points because we’ve cut government spending, because we took on the teacher unions.

”But we need that kind of leadership in D.C.”

As we talked about at the time, Jindal has an unintentionally amusing take on his own political story. He ran for statewide office, promising voters to pursue a conservative policy agenda, and he won easily. Once in office, Jindal kept his promise, cut spending, and governed as a far-right ideologue.

And according to Jindal, people hated it. According to his own version of events, his constituents – residents of a ruby-red state – saw their governor implement his vision, causing Jindal’s public support to drop “at least” 15 to 20 points.

The people of Louisiana got a chance to see Jindal govern up close, and they concluded that he’s simply awful.

“We need that kind of leadership in D.C.”?

Writing at the American Conservative in February, Rod Dreher reflected a bit on Jindal’s national ambitions. “I keep telling my friends in the national media that if you think Bobby Jindal has a chance in hell of becoming president, send a reporter down to spend a few days in Louisiana, seeing what condition he’s leaving his state in,” Dreher said.

There are plenty of other reasons to question Jindal’s candidacy on the merits – his brazen opportunism, his unprincipled flip-flops, his ugly partisanship, his ridiculous policy positions (“no-go zones” and the like), his needlessly divisive approaches to every culture-war fight he could pick – but it’s probably fair to say these issues won’t matter.

His failed gubernatorial tenure effectively ends the conversation about his national ambitions.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, June 24, 2015

June 25, 2015 Posted by | Bobby Jindal, GOP Presidential Candidates, Louisiana | , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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