Private Meetings and Public Contradictions

Sep 18, 2017

The approaching fiscal cliff has prompted a whole lot of meetings lately – behind closed doors.

“I’m very optimistic that we’re going to get it done, working with these business roundtable meetings and the legislative leadership in both the House and the Senate,” Governor John Bel Edwards said, following his meeting with business leaders in Bossier City last week.

In the past month, he has also met with business owners and representatives in Baton Rouge, Alexandria, Houma, and New Orleans. However, House Appropriations chairman Cameron Henry isn’t favorably impressed.

“He’s doing these roundtable meetings with business leaders -- not to ask them how he can help expand their business,” Henry says, in a video posted to his Facebook page late last week. “Instead, it’s how can your company give the state more money so we can continue spending.”

Henry’s video post came one day after the Associated Press published an interview with House Speaker Taylor Barras, about his meetings with House members. In it, Barras said he’s “encouraged and hopeful” that a consensus can be built by early next year.

Yet Henry’s video indicates there will be no truce with Governor Edwards.

“One thing that the governor’s not going to come up with is a deficit reduction plan, where the governor’s going to say where in state government he believes we can reduce spending,” Henry declares. “He doesn’t believe in that. He fundamentally does not think government has enough of your money.”

Is Henry’s video actually trying to bring the Speaker back in line with the conservatives, or was Barras prevaricating when he spoke with AP?  Or perhaps the Speaker is truly working toward a compromise, knowing the so-called “Purple Coalition” of House Democrats and moderate House Republicans has also been meeting, expecting either a compromise plan or a new Speaker?

Here’s what Barras told conservative talk radio host Moon Griffon a few weeks ago:

“We’re going to go down a path of looking at how we spend money first,” Barras said. “That conversation will not change. We’re on a mission and we’re not giving up.”