Gov. John Bel Edwards all but confirmed Monday that life as we once knew it in Louisiana won't be returning anytime soon.
At a news conference in Monroe after touring Ouachita Parish to see storm damage first-hand, Edwards alluded to extending his heavy-handed order to shut down a large swath of Louisiana businesses beyond April 30, an order Edwards originally unveiled weeks ago and later amended to curtail the spread of the so-called Coronavirus. Once expected to kill hundreds of thousands of Americans, the Coronavirus now appears to be less dangerous to the general population than the common flu.
Don't misunderstand me, the Coronavirus is not to be taken lightly. It's especially dangerous for people who are obese, diabetic or have other underlying medical issues such as heart disease. Furthermore, there is no vaccine to punch out the Coronavirus, and there likely won't be one for another year or longer.
Yet, Edwards made it clear Monday that he was not bound to follow President Donald Trump, who early this week suggested in so many words that he was poised to lift his order closing much of the U.S. economy to combat the Coronavirus. Though the president has the final say on when Americans can resume their lives, Trump undoubtedly would give Edwards the leeway to determine when Louisianians can return to work.
Edwards probably is operating under a great deal of pressure these days, but he has never felt the pressure he would feel if Trump gives most of America the green light to restart the economy next month while Louisiana — under Edwards' orders — is told to stay home. Louisianians — at least those who work for a living — will demand that Edwards get with the program.
It should not surprise anyone who toils in the private sector to see elected officials and career bureaucrats express a somewhat flippant attitude toward the business community. Only business owners and their designated managers understand how difficult it is to make a profit, especially in Louisiana where the economy, by and large, has been abysmal for years. Any downtime can mean the difference between profitability and bankruptcy. Don't ask a politician about it; talk to a business owner.
Looming on the horizon is a regular legislative session that was brought to a standstill last month when the politicians and bureaucrats and much of the media told us the Coronavirus would spread across America like a wildfire. The regular session must be resumed in the not-too-distant future so state lawmakers can piece together a budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year before the session must adjourn sine die June 1. Make no mistake, the new fiscal year budget will remain a work in progress for months, even after the new fiscal year begins July 1. Simply stated, it's unknown how much money the state will spend to counter the Coronavirus and how much money the federal government is going to give the state to offset its Coronavirus expenses.
The Legislature will be pressed for time when the regular session resumes, which will work in Edwards' favor. He will speak from a position of authority, having spent the last several weeks presiding over the state's response to a crisis while lawmakers were tucked away back home. Still, lawmakers must get involved and not get lured into believing new taxes will be necessary to straighten out the state's finances, which will be a mess thanks to a dramatic downturn in sales tax collections and the decline in the price of a barrel of oil. The former, of course, are a direct result of businesses being shut down amidst the Coronavirus craze.
All in all, it's been a rough spring thus far. Let's hope some common sense rears its head before summer arrives. But don't hold your breath.