…and in with the new

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Dan Juneau The LABI Report

After the shortest transition period in modern history, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco now takes over as governor of the state of Louisiana.

Our new governor has not had a lot of time to weigh mighty issues such as key appointments in state government and a comprehensive legislative agenda for the spring. Some appointments have been announced, but the bulk of them remain to be finalized, which is not unusual for an administration coming into office. Once the inauguration is over and the new legislative leadership is sworn in, things will begin to move quickly and major questions will be answered.

What kind of governor will Kathleen Blanco be? She will be quite different from her recent predecessors in many respects. For openers, she is a listener, and a good one.

She doesn’t assume she knows everything and she likes to accumulate as much information as possible before finalizing a major decision. This trait of often being deliberate may cause some to claim she is indecisive as her governorship unfolds. But Governor Blanco would rather be criticized for taking her time in finding the right approach than for shooting from the hip and moving in the wrong direction.

In my experiences over the years dealing with our new governor, what strikes me most about her is the fact that she is one of the most straightforward public officials I have ever encountered. She says what she means.

Anyone looking for hidden messages or a covert agenda in her pronouncements is missing a critical component of what she is about. She favors compromise over confrontation, but she is not afraid to take a stand when compromise fails. She is not as liberal as some conservatives think and not as conservative as some liberals fear. She is a solid Democrat but has never been the darling of the major interest groups who steer the money and direction of the Democratic Party in Louisiana. She will likely upset groups on the Left with some of her appointments and stands on issues, just as she will annoy those on the Right with others.

The main theme coming out of the nascent Blanco administration is a good one: Louisiana needs jobs and a major emphasis on economic development, and those priorities are at the top of her list. Even before taking office she is meeting with the officers of key businesses in the state to try to prevent any more job losses from occurring.

Perhaps the most important appointment she will make will center upon who will lead the economic development efforts for Louisiana. Certainly all of the other cabinet positions are important, but if economic development is priority number one, then getting the absolute best person to lead the effort will be a key indicator of how serious our new governor is about bringing our economy back-and our expatriates with it.

Another indicator of Governor Blanco’s commitment to economic development lies with the legislative leadership she has chosen and the committee structure they will put in place. Competing for jobs with other states is difficult in itself, but if our Legislature continues to advance anti-business legislation to the floors for debate, it will be next to impossible to claim Louisiana is serious about attracting the jobs and investment that are sorely needed.

Being governor is not an easy job, and that position now belongs to Governor Blanco. It is in Louisiana’s best interest that she meets with success quickly and often.