Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.
On January 8, the red state of Louisiana is finally going to be led by a conservative Republican as Governor. In the October gubernatorial primary, Attorney General Jeff Landry defeated fifteen other candidates. He will be inheriting a state with massive problems, made worse by outgoing Governor John Bel Edwards, a leftwing Democrat.
Edwards created economic misery in Louisiana, while our Southern neighbors experienced population booms. Over the last year, 1.4 million individuals moved to the South, increasing the region’s population by 1.1% to 130 million.
In contrast, the latest census report showed Louisiana lost 14,274 residents last year and, over the past three years, the state has suffered an outmigration of 84,000 people. This is the worst, per capita, population loss of any state in the nation, other than New York.
Why are so many people leaving Louisiana? Politics is certainly one reason as Louisiana is the only Gulf South state to be saddled with a leftwing Governor. During the pandemic, Edwards imposed draconian COVID restrictions and was terribly slow to remove them. While Louisiana was closed for business, other states, such as Florida, kept their economies rolling and their people employed.
Edwards supported President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party’s progressive agenda, such as allowing transgender surgery for children. He vetoed a bill that would have banned such procedures. Mercifully, it was overridden by the Republican controlled legislature.
Edwards also vetoed a bill that would have allowed “constitutional carry,” or the right to carry a concealed handgun without a permit. Louisiana is surrounded by states that allow “constitutional carry.” Thankfully, it is expected to be a top priority for the incoming Governor and Republican legislature.
This right is important for Louisiana citizens who need to protect themselves from rampaging criminals who roam throughout our state. Sadly, our violent crime rate is extremely high and New Orleans ranked as the murder capital of the nation in 2022. Other cities, such as Baton Rouge and Shreveport, have exceedingly high rates of violent crime as well.
Due to the considerable violence in Louisiana, the state has an extremely high incarceration rate. This is needed because of the plethora of criminals in Louisiana. Yet, Governor Edwards believes the high incarceration rate needs to be reduced, so he has been working overtime to release violent criminals from prison.
He signed a series of “criminal justice reform” bills in 2017 that released hundreds of inmates from prison early. Since October, Edwards has pardoned 40 murderers, including a killer who fatally stabbed his victim 39 times. In the last few weeks, he has released 56 convicts and more could be announced before his term ends.
Fortunately, Governor-Elect Landry has a much different view on how to deal with violent crime in Louisiana. He campaigned on a “law and order” platform, prioritizing aggressive prosecution of violent crime.
Of course, Landry is right, the answer to the violent crime problem is not to release hardened criminals from prison. Louisiana needs a functioning criminal justice system, adequate numbers of police officers, economic opportunities for residents to find employment, intact families with both parents involved in their children’s lives and excellent public schools to provide education for at-risk youth.
Unfortunately, in the critical area of public education, Louisiana, under the leadership of Edwards, was a total disaster. It is a contributing factor to the state’s population decline.
According to WalletHub, in measuring the overall quality of public education, Louisiana ranked 46th in the country. In this rating a variety of metrics were used, including academic performance, class size, instructor credentials and safety. In the view of demographer Greg Rigamer, “better public schools” are a major reason young families leave Louisiana for “Texas and Florida and Georgia.”
Along with a failing public education system, Edwards was unable to improve the state’s poor economy. In fact, he made the economy worse by expanding government at the expense of the private sector. While other states celebrated the opening of corporate headquarters or automobile plants, Edwards cited his biggest accomplishment to be the expansion of Medicaid.
While thousands of residents with the ability to leave Louisiana exited, poor residents were forced to stay. As Rigamer disclosed, “The average household income is about two-thirds that of the United States. Our poverty rate is about fifty percent higher than the United States.”
If Louisiana is going to attract more than just impoverished people to the state, it needs to reduce business taxes and eliminate the income tax. The huge state budget needs an overhaul, with more responsibility given to municipalities.
In other Southern states, these strategies have worked to recruit wealthy residents and businesses. Today, Louisiana is not competitive, and Rigamer cited the challenge for Governor-Elect Landry will be to “do something to maintain a competitive profile relative to economic investment and industrial investment.”
Edwards promised to leave Louisiana “better” after he left office. Undoubtedly, he completely failed. To succeed, Landry needs to study what Edwards did as Governor, and do the opposite.