Former Gov. Edwin W. Edwards criticized Gov. Bobby Jindal’s treatment of state employees Tuesday, telling a gathering of retirees that he is concerned about the “disrespect” for those who serve the people.
Edwards, 85, contrasted his approach to government workers with that of Jindal’s at the fourth annual conference of the Louisiana Retired State Employees Association.
“I came because I know what you have done and what your predecessors have done and what your successors are going to do for the people of the state. I came because I respect you,” the four-term governor said.
“You probably couldn’t get the present governor to come,” Edwards said to laughter.
“You could have had your convention in Iowa or Michigan,” Edwards said in reference to Jindal’s forays out of state for political events, including those promoting Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Edwards said he is concerned about the lack of respect being shown these days for Civil Service workers and retirees “who make this state and country run.”
Jindal has implemented major state employee layoffs as his administration privatized some functions. In the 2012 legislative session, Jindal advocated new pension policies that would have required employees to pay more and work longer for reduced benefits. Key changes affecting employees died after a lengthy legislative battle.
“When I was in office, the Legislature and I worked together for the good of the people. We made mistakes ... but we tried,” Edwards said. “When I was governor, people were working, we took care of state employees, the sick and the poor. ... I was here when something happened.
“Don’t give up. I see the pendulum swinging. It’s going all the way to the right, but it’s coming back. People will begin to realize government is to serve people,” said Edwards, who was greeted with a standing ovation.
Edwards did not mention Jindal by name in remarks that included observations on political issues of the day and his life with a good dose of Cajun jokes and humor sprinkled in.
“They sent me to prison for life. I came out with a good-looking wife,” said Edwards, who met his third wife, Trina, while serving a federal prison sentence on racketeering charges.
At one point, Edwards criticized “the governor of this state” for not accepting federal Medicaid funds that would provide health care for 400,000 to 500,000 Louisiana residents.
Edwards said he is concerned about what’s happening on the national front as well, including the Obama administration’s objection to the Keystone Pipeline from Canada into the U.S.
“There are thousands of miles of pipeline in this country, and it’s rare we have a problem,” said Edwards, who added that the U.S. needs the energy supply.
Edwards also decried the loss of more than 2,000 U.S. military lives in Afghanistan and called for bringing U.S. troops home.
“Why spend billions of dollars and spill the blood (of so many Americans?” he asked. “Afghanistan is not a threat to us.”
He said there are people who don’t like the U.S. “but not any organized government. ... We do have a problem with terrorists.”
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