DOCTOR’S ORDERS: Abraham would prescribe limited convention

In yet another signal that Congressman Ralph Abraham will be on the ballot in 2018 and probably 2019, the veterinarian-turned-physician told LaPolitics this week that his potential bid for governor would be anchored by a vow to rewrite key sections of Louisiana’s guiding charter. "If I decide to run for governor, my top priority would be to call for a limited constitutional convention to make fundamental changes to the way business is done in Baton Rouge," Abraham said.

More specifics are forthcoming, particularly if Abraham decides to challenge Gov. John Bel Edwards. But the congressman’s thoughts on the topic do reveal some policy interests.

"A government closest to the people can better serve the people, so local governments need to be able to raise and keep local tax dollars in their own backyards instead of sending them to a black hole in Baton Rouge," said Abraham. "We have to give local governments the space they need to thrive and give the Legislature the ability to make the spending cuts that need to be made."

As is the case with other policymakers interested in a constitutional rewrite, Abraham said he would want to point a spotlight on the budget process. "We have some major problems in Louisiana, especially with the budget," he said. "This is partly because we have a Constitution where Baton Rouge takes all of your tax dollars, gives most of them to special interests and the people might get the leftovers."

Aside from the policy implications, Abraham’s interview with LaPolitics revealed he won’t shy away from political contrasts.

"Much of our Constitution is sound and not all of our funds and dedications are bad, but if we really want to make meaningful, fundamental changes, then everything has to be on the table, and we must have an honest discussion about what stays, what goes and what's revised. We can't have that conversation unless we have a governor willing to do the hard work, put the Louisiana people first and make the hard decisions that might not be politically popular, but have to be made," Abraham said, adding the Constitution does too much to create an all-powerful governorship that freely picks winners and losers. "It's been a long time since we had a governor willing to do that, but if I run it's exactly what I'll do."

Asked for his reaction, Richard Carbo, Gov. John Bel Edwards’ deputy chief of staff, said, "We’re glad to see that Congressman Abraham agrees with the governor that a constitutional convention is necessary, but it won't do a thing to solve our immediate budget challenges. In fact, we know from his recent comments that he would make deep cuts to education, health care and law enforcement, which is not what the people of Louisiana want. That sounds like the farthest thing from a strong leader and actually puts his own political interests ahead of the needs of our state."

In other words, the 2019 race for governor is underway.

This story was originally published in LaPOLITICS Weekly on March 8, 2018. Wish you had read it then? Become a part of our elite community by subscribing today!

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