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Sunday, September 22, 2019

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Jay Dardenne chosen as new governor's chief budget adviser

Jay Dardenne chosen as new governor's chief budget adviser

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards named his new budget chief Monday, selecting Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, the Republican who crossed party lines to lend critical support to Edwards in the runoff, for the high-profile job.

Dardenne, who failed in his own bid for governor earlier this year, will be the Democratic governor-elect's commissioner of administration when Edwards takes office next month.

The commissioner works as the governor's top budget adviser, the public face of an administration's financial negotiations and the overseer of the day-to-day operations of state government.

Dardenne's "an honest man. He's balanced budgets before. He knows what they look like when they're in balance and they're responsible and honest, but more importantly he knows what it takes to get one passed as well," Edwards said.

Edwards selected Kimberly Robinson, a tax lawyer who once worked in state government, as his revenue secretary. She'll be working closely with Dardenne, tasked with developing a tax rewrite that will be aimed at helping to lessen the state's continuing budget woes.

"Kimberly is exactly the right person at the right time to lead the Department of Revenue, to help me simplify our tax structure for Louisiana's businesses and working families," Edwards said.

Both positions will be on the front lines for tackling the deep budget problems facing Louisiana, problems Edwards has pledged to address after taking office Jan. 11.

The state faces a more than $1 billion budget shortfall in the upcoming fiscal year that begins July 1, a multimillion-dollar gap in the state's Medicaid program this year and unstable revenue sources to piece together solutions.

Edwards plans a February special session to make tax changes in the hopes of drumming up new money for the state treasury, and his first budget proposal for the 2016-17 year is due to lawmakers Feb. 12.

Dardenne and Robinson will be at the forefront of developing those plans and selling them to state lawmakers.

"I don't come to this job purporting to have all the answers or knowing exactly what the solutions need to be, but I do commit to you, governor, and to the people of Louisiana that I will work as hard as I can to make sure that we act responsibly," Dardenne said.

A former state senator, Dardenne walks into the position leading the Division of Administration with experience in helping to craft state budgets.

He once worked as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and as lieutenant governor, he was head of the state Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. Between his tenure in the Senate and as lieutenant governor, he was Louisiana's secretary of state.

Dardenne had been rumored for the job even before the runoff election was over when he threw his support to Edwards instead of Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter for governor. Both Edwards and Dardenne said no position was tied to the endorsement and no deal was struck until the election was won, however.

Robinson is a partner at a Baton Rouge law firm, focusing mainly on state and local tax issues. Before that she worked for Democratic former Gov. Kathleen Blanco on economic development and revenue policy issues and spent six years in the revenue department.

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