BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Gov. John Bel Edwards promised to pursue new investments in education and infrastructure in his first public appearance since being re-elected on Nov. 16.
Standing next to his bride, a former teacher, Edwards called for another pay increase for Louisiana’s educators, a cut to wait lists for pre-k schooling, and an increase in funding for Louisiana colleges.
He also said he would pursue a minimum wage increase and legislation to close the gender pay gap, though both ideas face an uphill battle in a legislature that is now more conservative than ever.
“I will fight any effort to return our state to uncertainty, instability, and deficits,” he said. He would not rule out cutting taxes, but only if the state’s economy continues to grow and Louisiana economists project long-term growth.
“We are not going to go back to a situation where we’re unable to invest in our critical priorities.”
Edwards shed new light on his phone call with president Donald Trump, who lobbied hard against the democratic incumbent but extended an olive branch after the election was decided. Trump called Edwards family “beautiful,” and promised to work with Edwards in the future, the governor said.
But Edwards said his challenger, Eddie Rispone, did not make any good points about the state of the state. Rispone repeatedly referenced studies ranking Louisiana at or near the bottom of certain categories.
“It just doesn’t make sense to me to falsely claim Louisiana is doing so poorly when, in fact, we ought to be rooting for Louisiana,” Edwards said, noting economic growth in certain sectors. “Do we have challenges? Yes. But we don’t have the challenges we had four years ago.”
Edwards also announced that all Office of Motor Vehicles locations across the state will remain closed until Monday, Nov. 25, due to the ransomware attack on Nov. 18.
The governor said he will begin meeting with new lawmakers tomorrow (Nov. 22) to make introductions and set legislative agendas for the session beginning in the spring.