Monday, 23 September 2019 11:34

Transcript of Louisiana Governor Race debate: Vaping, budget and corporate taxes

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As a political issue in the Louisiana governor's race, how important is e-cigarettes or vaping? What about the Louisiana budget and corporate taxes?

These three issues started the first televised statewide debate Thursday night as Democrat incumbent governor, John Bel Edwards clashed with two Republicans--Congressman Ralph Abraham and businessman Eddie Rispone over these and other issues.

The debate was hosted by LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication and Nexstar Media Group TV stations, airing around the state on radio and television and online.


Below is the transcript of the questions and discussions regarding those three issues. Next article: The gun battle

REPORTER: Thank you, Jackie. Gentlemen, we're going to start tonight with a children's health issue actually very serious one. health concerns surrounding e cigarettes continue to mount, you've probably seen the recent headlines. The latest from the Louisiana health department confirms 13 cases of lung problems after patients used e cigarettes. But across the country, many more people are getting sick and some have even died. Just this week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo used executive action to ban sales of most flavored e cigarettes for the next 90 days. And last mid, last week, Michigan began became the first state to ban flavored e cigarettes. If elected governor, would you follow the lead of New York and Michigan in banning flavored e cigarettes? Why or why not? And we'll start with you Mr. Rispone. You have 60 seconds to respond.

RISPONE: Well, I'd like to thank you all for hosting tonight. And I'd also like to thank your, audience for being here tonight. And viewing debate tonight. As far as the E cigarettes. You know, I think that's like cigarettes in general, we should put the warning on those. And we should look at reducing the use of those things. Now without giving an executive order to do away with them. I don't think I'm prepared to say that tonight. Really not. But if the evidence shows that something needs to be done, we need to move forward with that and address it from a health standpoint.

REPORTER: All right, Mr. Rispone, thank you very much. Now to you Mr. Edwards, would you consider banning? If cigarettes Why Why not?

EDWARDS: Well, the first thing we would do is sit down with the Secretary of Health look and see what the facts are. I am growing in my concern. 40 cigarettes, we know that this is a problem across the country. And it seems like every single day, they're more reported cases of young people who after only a short period of time of smoking these, these e cigarettes, the vaping they're developing very serious, irreversible lung damage. So I have heard the President say that he is looking at banning the flavoring of the cigarettes, I happen to think that that's probably a smart thing to do. I think that's why children are attracted in the first place. We will look at this in Louisiana, I do believe by the way that people want to be to-- have to be 21 in order to access the product of the product. So this is something that I'm very interested in. I've already got the secretary of health looking into it. And we will take action on it one way or another. To limit these e cigarettes, especially the flavoring of it in the legislative session coming up next year.

REPORTER: Thank you, Mr. Edwards. Now to you, Mr. Abraham, would you be in favor of banning these e cigarettes?

ABRAHAM:Well, let's just pause for a minute. I know we're talking mostly young people here and we have lost three LSU students in the last two weeks. So thoughts and prayers, I will put politics aside just briefly for that because it is an important topic. Anything other than oxygen that you put in your lungs is not good. As a physician, I can tell you that. On the E cigarettes, the vaping. I've talked to the NIH of in Washington, DC, I've seen the pathology reports. And they do cause damage. Now, it's a personal choice. Certainly if you're over 21, you smoke a cigarette, I don't recommend it. If you do eat cigarettes, I certainly don't recommend that either. But it is a personal choice. Below 21. I think we need to put the regulation that we have on other cigarettes in place, if the data drives us to a more concrete conclusion, then we follow the data.

REPORTER: Okay, thank you, Mr. Abraham, actually have a follow up, we're going to get a little more personal with this question. All three of you have either children or grandchildren. If you found them using e cigarettes, what would your reaction be? And what would you say to them? Mr. Rispone will start with you, you have 30 seconds to respond.

RISPONE: But I do everything I could to discourage you from using a cigarette just like regular cigarettes, both of them are very harmful to their health. And I would actually do as best I could to research it, sit down with them, bring them to some experts and explain to them the hazards of doing that. And that's what I would have to do.

REPORTER: Thank you Mr. Rispone. Mr. Edwards. What would your reaction be if your children were using e cigarettes?

EDWARDS: Well, it's very similar. In fact, we know e cigarettes deliver nicotine, I believe that smoking is harmful to your health. I don't believe that e cigarettes are healthier. They're not a healthier alternative. And so I will do everything that I can to try to convince my children but also anyone out there to not smoke. And part of the problem is many people believe it is a safer alternative, when in fact it is not. And certainly the flavorings lend themselves to children being attractive, but I would tell them, please not to do that.

REPORTER: Thank you, Mr. Edwards. Mr. Abraham, what would your reaction be?

ABRAHAM: Look, an optic is worth 1000 words literally. And even though they're young, my grandchildren, I would show them along that has been damaged not only about the cigarettes, but about the cigarettes too. I’ve  seen them and it's it's impressive. So they would get the picture literally.

REPORTER: All right. Thank you, gentlemen, for our next question. Let's go to Jackie.

REPORTER: Thank you, Fred. Now, gentlemen, over the last four years, the state has gone from a multi billion dollar budget deficit to a multi million dollar surplus. Part of the reason for that change was an increase in sales tax for years ago, with Louisiana's budget problems no longer an immediate issue. Is it time to cut the burden on Louisiana taxpayers Mr. Edwards, you go first, you have 60 seconds.

EDWARDS: First of all, that $2 billion budget deficit was the largest in our state's history, we came together and did the hard work necessary by focusing on cuts, savings. And yes, there was revenue supported by two thirds vote of a Republican legislature. In fact, more than half the Republicans in the House and the Senate voted for it. We now are running surpluses because the economy is performing better than the Congress had predicted when they came up with the revenue forecast. And last year, we did cut by 650 million, dollars, the tax burden on the sales tax, we shouldn't do it by looking back at surpluses, because those are automatically necessarily looking backwards. And what we need to do is look forward in the forecast because the worst thing we can do as a state is go back to a structural budget deficit that we just came out of that we had for the better part of 10 years, where we're now making investments in education, the first teacher pay raise in a decade, the first net new investment in higher education, including LSU right here in a decade.

REPORTER: So the sales tax though is about half a cent higher than it was when you took office.

EDWARDS:  That's correct. Four years ago.

REPORTER: So would you find a way to cut taxes in a different area?

EDWARDS: Well, we, well, we don't agree that we should cut taxes until we know that we won't go back into a structural budget deficit. We've already reduced the tax burden with respect to the sales tax about $650 million. We did that last year. What we don't want to do is go back to cutting higher education getting where we can't give our teachers of pay rates, which we did this year for the first time in 10 years. And you do that by looking forward  at forecast, not looking back at a surplus.

REPORTER All right, thank you very much. Mr. Edwards.Mr. Abraham, would you cut taxes

ABRAHAM: Absolutely. this governor helped create the deficit? He voted for the majority of Governor Jindal's budgets? And yes, we do have the highest sales tax in the nation. And that's why we do not have the jobs. We have lost jobs more than any other state in the nation. And it's due to taxes, taxes, taxes. I happen to have an op ed in my pocket. That was written by Governor Edwards. And Governor, you said that raising the sales tax will kill the Louisiana economy. Congratulations, Governor, you killed it. It is because our taxes are too high.

REPORTER: Mr. Edwards you have 30 seconds to respond

EDWARDS: to kill the economy. That's that's an absurd statement.

ABRAHAM: No, it's not.

EDWARDS: It is the economy is the biggest it has ever been in our state

ABRAHAM: We are dead last

EDWARDS:  It is growing at the 10th fastest rate in the country right now. personal income is the highest it has ever been. And unemployment is the lowest in 11 years. That's why we're running a surplus. Because the economy is performing better. It is bigger than the economists had predicted when they came up with the forecast. And the idea that we've done anything other than to grow the economy and strenghten it, is just false.

REPORTER: Thank you, Mr. Edwards.

REPORTER: We do want to remind the audience that we want the candidates to have enough time to answer the question. So if you could hold your applause, thank you. Mr. Rispone, would you cut taxes, you have 60 seconds? Yes.

RISPONE: Yes, you know, as a business person, it always it always amazed me, how do we have a balance budget deficit? When state law says we have to have a balanced budget, we cannot have an unbalanced budget. So that that causes me to start with? And then why is that budget now $7 billion more than it was before years ago. So we have a spinning problem as well. How do you have a surplus when you raise taxes? Because it's the taxpayers money, that's what it is, it is over-taxation. So I would look at it from a totally different standpoint, I'd look at it from a business standpoint, our budgets would be balanced like they supposed to be. And then we would figure out why we have we don't have the reserves inside that budget, not come back at the end and say, well, we have a set of surplus. What happened here is that we told people that we had a deficit a $1.9 billion deficit, and we had to raise taxes or we were going to kick elderly out of nursing homes. Or, we're going to stop LSU football? Or, we gonna have to cancel TOPS. That's not how you do this.

REPORTER: Thank you very much, Mr. Rispone.

REPORTER: A follow up to that we're going to talk about corporate taxes, something that we refer to as ITEPS make it very simple for our viewers and listeners. It's basically a program that offers tax breaks to companies in Louisiana. Mr. Edwards, under your administration, we saw change allowing local governing bodies to have the final say over whether or not these companies get tax breaks. So if re-elected, would you reconsider giving that power back to the state you have 30 seconds?

EDWARDS: No, because 100% of the taxes being exempted, otherwise go to local government, I believe school boards, sheriff's and parish governments and municipalities ought to have a seat at the table. But we also made sure that it's an 80% exemption over 10 years, not 100%. We also are making sure that we tie it to jobs for the first time in the state of Louisiana, and the aggregate value of all ITEPS that have been approved. And capital expenditures is a hundred billion dollars, whereas in the last four years of the  Jindal Administration was $50 billion. The program is alive and well and working.

REPORTER: thank you very much, Mr. Edwards. Mr. Abraham,

ABRAHAM: On my first hour and my first day is a new governor. I will reverse governor John Bel's. ITEP  changes. it has driven businesses out of our state. It's crazy. We are hemorrhaging people, we are hemorrhaging business. This governor, by exemptions, ITEP has raised corporate taxes by $5 billion. That's why we don't have any jobs. They have left the state.

Reporter: Thank you, Mr. Rispone,  30 seconds.

RISPONE: Yes. Let me say this, you know, the governor, he would his executive order, threw it into chaos. We shut down jobs all over this state. Because  Industry,  didn't know where he was going with this. The fact is, we did not sit down with all the parties with concern. Now what I would do--I would bring them all back together, the locals have to have a "say. so" in this, we would come up with something that satisfies everyone. And we would put it back into department of economic development where it belongs. So we have predictability and fairness to the job creators so we can keep growing our economy. 

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