Thursday, May 30, 2024

LABI President and CEO Waguespack resigns, announces governor bid

by BIZ Magazine

The head of state’s top business organization formally informed its board members Thursday he would be stepping down to run for governor. Stephen Waguespack, who’s led the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry for 10 years, enters a crowded field of Republicans already committed to the race.

Multiple sources told the Illuminator earlier this week Waguespack would join the competition. Official qualifying takes place in Aug. 8-10, with the primary set for Oct. 14 and a runoff scheduled for Nov. 18.

“The stakes are high, time is of the essence and I cannot sit on the sidelines when the future of our state is at stake,” Waguespack said in the email, according to the USA Today Network.

Waguespack, 49, was executive counsel and chief of staff during Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration before leaving to lead LABI. As its president, he has been a fixture at the Capitol, lobbying for business-friendly legislation and fighting efforts his group’s membership deemed detrimental. For example, LABI has generally opposed additional tax burden for business while advocating for corporate incentives from the state. 

Waguespack’s group has also aligned with the legislature’s Republican majority in opposition to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ repeated attempts to increase the state’s minimum wage. The last time entry-level pay was increased in Louisiana was 2008 to its current level of $7.25 an hour.

Waguespack’s LABI stances offer some insight into his platform, yet it could be his ties to Jindal that provide fodder for his opponents. The former governor left the state in a fiscal mess that put Republican lawmakers in the uncomfortable position of having to raise taxes. Jindal relied on one-time state revenue to fund recurring costs for state government, leading to drastic cuts in higher education and health care.

Jindal also refused to expand Medicaid, turning down federal money that his successor Edwards used to expand health care coverage to more than 400,000 people. 

Under Waguespack’s leadership, LABI has called for broad Medicaid “reforms” that bring spending under control while expanding access and services. The association has also called for the elimination of state budget dedications so state colleges and public hospitals and clinics aren’t forced to absorb cuts alone.

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