SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards laid out his agenda during his inaugural address on Monday, pledging to expand Medicaid, enact education reforms, and find long-term solutions to the state’s large budget deficit.
Edwards, the first Democrat to hold the office of governor in Louisiana since 2008, said he planned to begin accepting federal funding on Tuesday to expand healthcare to residents through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
“Your tax dollars should not be going to one of the 30 other states that have expanded Medicaid when we are one of the states that expansion will help the most,” Edwards, 49, said during the address.
He also said he planned to work with the legislature, local lawmakers and businesses to find permanent solutions to the state’s $1.9 billion budget deficit, which he called his top priority.
In June the state approved a budget that credit analysts at Moody’s accused of being over-reliant on one-time measures, an assessment then-Governor Bobby Jindal disputed.
“We can no longer afford to lurch year to year cobbling together temporary fixes and expecting to realize permanent sustainability,” Edwards said.
Edwards takes over from Jindal, a Republican who had been criticized for focusing on his presidential campaign at the expense of Louisiana. He dropped his bid for the White House in November.
Edwards also called out the state for its low marks in education, saying it must make college more affordable while working toward a goal of funding higher education with 50 percent state support and 50 percent tuition and fees.
For K-12 education he said the state should end what he called the overuse of costly standardized testing and shift power over budget and educational decisions to local school boards.
Edwards also called on the state to raise the minimum wage, fight poverty, and ensure women and men receive equal pay for equal work.
Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Sandra Maler