As the state’s chief executive, he has a new perspective on the financial shortfall the state faces. Moreover, it’s his responsibility to fix the $750 million deficit and he only has a short period of time to do so. As distasteful as it might be, increasing the sales tax is the quickest way to fill the hole. Until the legislature meets and decides to rethink statutory dedications in the budget, the two areas that will be have to be cut to balance the budget by July are higher education and health care. There are no good choices in this situation. Edwards wanted this responsibility and now he has it. He’s going to be criticized no matter what he decides.
That critics will say he has changed his position once he has assumed office should come as no surprise. Some of them still cannot grasp the idea that voters rejected Jindal and his Republican program and that a Democrat now resides in the Governor’s mansion. That being said, I don’t recall Edwards, the candidate, saying that he wasn’t going to raise revenue. While he may not have mentioned the idea raising sales taxes, he made it quite clear during the campaign that additional revenue would be required to fix the budget mess. I believe he emphasized this would be done primarily through the elimination of tax exemptions. I’m not sure that asking for an increase in the sales tax rates as breaking a promise.
As for the notion that Edwards should have been aware of the scope of the problem, we have to consider the source of that information; the Jindal Administration. To say Jindal and his cronies played fast and loose with the numbers in the budget would not be an understatement. His administration employed smoke and mirrors when dealing with the budget and statements they communicated about the state’s financial situation came straight out of fantasy land. If Edwards is guilty of anything it would be that he believed without reservation what Jindal’s cronies told him about the shortfall in the budget.