By Jeremy Alford, Sarah Gamard & Mitch Rabalais
When Gov. John Bel Edwards issued his executive budget proposal to lawmakers in January, the roughly $1 billion in cuts it contained was a warning more than anything else.
But after a weeklong string of policy failures in the ongoing special session that is slated to adjourn soon, those cuts are starting to sound more like a threat.
“It’s much more of a reality now,” said Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne.
With no revenue emerging to fill the massive budget gap during the special session’s final days, attention is starting to turn to the approaching budget process that will be hosted by the regular session that convenes March 12.
Will lawmakers pass a budget with a nearly $1 billion hole? Will no budget be passed at all? Could a budget be passed with contingencies based on revenue being generated during a second special session in June?
Even if representatives do manage to send a cut-heavy budget bill to the floor during the regular session, Dardenne said he doubted the document could garner enough support to move to the upper chamber.
He expects lawmakers to wait “until the last weeks of June” to pass a budget that will contain new revenue and spending cuts.
Senate Finance Chair Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, said he could envision a scenario where lawmakers actually pass a balanced budget, cuts and all, during the regular session.
“If they do anything other than that, it would be malfeasance,” he said of the House, where the budget bill must originate.
House Appropriations Chairman Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, can also imagine a cut-heavy bill moving through the Legislature. But he added that he’s willing to defer to the House’s budget-writing panel, which he chairs.
“What members decide to do with that in committee is up to them,” Henry said.
From the outside looking in, Louisiana Budget Project Director Jan Moller said he “can’t imagine” the governor signing off on a budget with nearly $1 billion in cuts, no matter how many lawmakers vote green.
That likely means, short of a special session miracle this week, that June could be the month for real budget crafting.
Villere launches consulting firm
With Roger Villere stepping down as chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party after 14 years of service, he told LaPolitics in an interview recently that his next move will be a political consulting firm.
Villere will serve as president of the newly-created CRV and handle issues and clients alongside former Kenner Mayor Phil Capitano and Danny Riehm, an insurance executive who’s often recognized for his TV and radio broadcasts of high school sports.
As for what’s on tap, Villere said the firm is already working with a black Republican who will oppose Congressman Cedric Richmond this fall in the 2nd Congressional District. Asked for more details, Villere was mum.
Political History: Uncle Earl and Charles de Gaulle
In April of 1960, French President Charles de Gaulle, on a tour of the United States, stopped for a diplomatic visit in New Orleans. Unbeknownst to Le Président, he quickly found himself thrust into the middle of the legendary political feud between Gov. Earl Long and the city’s mayor, DeLesseps Morrison.
Long and Morrison were longtime political enemies. Morrison led the reform-minded, “good government” faction of the state Democratic Party, while Long sat upon his brother’s throne as the leader of the party’s populist wing. The two had faced off in the 1956 gubernatorial election, which Long won outright in the primary.
De Gaulle’s visit to New Orleans came in the final days of Long’s term. The organizing committee had neglected to invite the governor, who was only nine months removed from his well-publicized release from a state mental hospital.
Furious at the snub, Long blamed Morrison and managed to get a pass for the festivities. But Uncle Earl was not going to be just a diplomatic spectator.
When de Gaulle’s motorcade was leaving the airport, Long walked over to the president’s car, demanding to ride with him and Morrison. The French security guards refused to allow the governor in and he had to catch a ride with the adjutant general of the National Guard.
Not obtaining a more formal introduction, Long and de Gaulle briefly spoke before a ceremonial parade. When de Gaulle moved toward his seat, the governor grabbed him by the lapels and pulled him back to continue their conversation. During the parade, Long puffed on a cigarette and berated Morrison for some past political attacks.
At a luncheon the following day at the Roosevelt Hotel, security guards noticed that Long was carrying a gun in his pocket. While the governor assured them he was no threat to de Gaulle, two plainclothesmen were assigned to stay close to him.
Checking the table beforehand, Morrison had noticed that Long was assigned the seat next to de Gaulle. The mayor promptly moved the governor to the end of the table. Long responded by forcing a translator to move and planting himself in their seat.
When Long rose to address the luncheon, Morrison told him to keep his remarks short — no more than five minutes. The governor spoke for three minutes, then told the mayor to take his two minutes back. Long then grabbed his hat and left and headed back to Baton Rouge, insulted.
They Said It
“You guys have different opinions, but you can’t have your own facts.”
—Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, debating on the House floor
“It doesn’t concern me because I am term-limited.”
—Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, on temporary tax proposals, in The Times-Picayune