Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, well into his campaign for a second term, makes a number claims in his recent ad "Surplus" that don't stand up to fact checking.
Edward's "Surplus" campaign ad, which began airing earlier this month, criticizes the budgets of his predecessor, which Edwards largely voted for, and takes credit for programs Edwards threatened to cut.
For instance, the ad touts Edwards for “saving safety net hospitals, nursing homes” but his proposed budget defunded safety net hospitals as part of what The Advocate called one of "the most drastic measures" in cuts Edwards revealed in his budget proposal.
Also on Edwards' list of "most drastic" cuts in his proposed budget was the near elimination of the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students college scholarships, despite Edwards taking credit in the ad that "TOPS is fully funded."
The claim that TOPS is fully funded is true enough, thanks in large part to Edwards' apparent change of mind by April. By that time, Edwards said he wanted to protect increased funding in higher education and supported filling the scholarship program's $12.3 million funding gap.
Edwards, the Deep South's only Democrat governor, spent time this week touring Hurricane Barry damage. He began his first term as governor in 2016 after he defeated Republican and then-U.S. Senator David Vitter, who'd been caught up in a prostitution scandal. Edwards took over the governorship from incumbent Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, who had been barred by term limits in the Louisiana Constitution to run for a third term.
Edwards officially announced his re-election bid in January. By early spring, Edwards had $10.2 million in bank for his re-election bid but by early summer his campaign became plagued by reports of disaffection among his Democrat base.
Edward's Republican challengers include Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone and U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham of Alto, who will appear with Edwards on the Oct. 12 gubernatorial primary ballot. If none garners more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two candidates will vie with each other in a Nov. 16 runoff election.
Jindal, who failed in his presidential bid, has been out of office for more than three years but remains Edward's favorite campaign target. Jindal comes up a lot in the "Surplus" campaign ad.
The ad begins by claiming Jindal "left Louisiana in crisis" with a series of economic jabs at Edward's predecessor. However, the ad does not mention that Edwards, as a state senator, voted for five of the eight budgets Jindal ultimately signed. Edwards voted against fiscal budgets in 2009, 2012 and 2014 but in favor of fiscal budges in 2008, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2015.
Edwards also does not mention in the "Surplus" ad that the budget cuts he proposed are essentially negotiating tools, threatening Draconian cuts in popular programs to push through tax increases, Medicaid expansion and other line items that he actually supports.
"There's not a single cut that we will propose that we want to implement," Edwards told The Advocate's editorial board in January. "We don't want those cuts made."