WESTLAKE, LA (KPLC) - Former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards was the keynote speaker at Thursday's Annual West Calcasieu Association of Commerce Banquet.
Edwards spoke about his time in office and weighed in on some state issues.
7 News asked Edwards about a number of issues, including ones affecting Southwest Louisiana.
Edwards was candid, particularly on issues dealing with budget slashes supported by Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Edwards called Jindal's higher education slashes "shameful."
"Well, I think it's very, very devastating and shameful for what he's doing to higher education, to our colleges, to the public school teachers, who he seems to have no regard for, and more important for medical services, because we have a large number of citizens who have no insurance and no ability to pay for medical services. In this day and age, nobody should suffer or live with a crippling disease, without being able to get medical attention," Edwards said.
Edwards, a Democrat, served as Louisiana's governor for four terms. He was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison on racketeering charges and was released from the federal facility in Oakdale last year.
KPLC photojournalist Tim Smith interviewed Edwards about his thoughts on a host of issues, including the re-election of President Barack Obama and the closure of C. Paul Phelps Correctional Center in DeQuincy.
On the closure of Phelps, Edwards said that he did not feel that it will be a savings to the state.
"The main thing about it is you are not saving any money. You are going to have to move the prisoners to another institution, have to house and feed and take care of them there. You'll have to hire people to take care of them, to guard them, etc., etc.," he said.
Edwards said it is also important for minimum level offenders to be near their families.
"It's very important for low level people in prison to be near their family and friends so that they can be visited, to keep their morale up because it's important to a person in prison and as you know, I have been there, so, I know what that means," he said.
Below is what the former governor had to say. You can also hear it in his own words in the attached video.
On the re-election of Obama:
"It was very interesting. I was somewhat surprised that Obama got the popular vote, although he won it by over two and a half million votes, I understand."
"I always assumed that he would probably get the Electoral College vote because of the swing states. That's one of the reasons that while I was in Congress, I tried to change that to where we would elect the president by popular vote because three times in our history, candidates who did not get the popular vote ended up getting the Electoral College vote and became president."
"It was hard to do because the smaller states don't want to change the system."
On state budget slashes:
"Well, I think it's very, very devastating and shameful what he (Jindal) is doing to higher education, to our colleges and universities, to the public school teachers who he seems to have no regard for. And more important, for medical services, because we have a large number of citizens who have no insurance and no ability to pay for medical services. In this day and age, nobody should suffer or live with a crippling disease, without being able to get medical attention. And I regret that very much."
"One of the things I most regret is his decision to not participate in the Medicaid program which affects 400,000 to 500,000 of our citizens who would be able to get medical attention and the federal government would pay the entire cost for three years and 95 percent of it thereafter so I don't understand how he can have that attitude, but we'll just have to live with it, I guess."
On the closure of Phelps Correctional Center:
"Unbelievable, I can't understand a governor closing a facility that important to the people in this area and especially where the Speaker of the House is a legislator from this area without giving the Legislature and the political leaders in the area some advance warning. He (Jindal) also should have given the employees some advance warning so they can begin to make preparations about what to do with their lives because all of a sudden, they are going to find themselves unemployed. And that's very regretful."
"The main thing about it is you are not saving any money. You are going to have to move the prisoners to another institution, have to house and feed and take care of them there. You'll have to hire people to take care of them, to guard them, etc., etc., and also, it's very important for low level people in prison to be near their family and friends so that they can be visited, to keep their morale up because it's important to a person in prison and as you know, I have been there, so, I know what that means."
"I don't understand his attitude. I guess he (Jindal) just has his own way of doing things. I just don't understand how the Legislature doesn't show more independence and go to bat for their constituents to keep these kinds of things from happening."
On Jindal's out-of-state campaigning in recent weeks:
"Well, I got criticized for a lot of things while I was governor, but I was here when things happened, I was here when the Legislature needed me. I answered the telephone. I met with people and I did my job. A lot of people didn't like the way I did it, but I did my job. I didn't want to be governor of Illinois ... or Iowa ... or Florida ... or California. I wanted to be governor of Louisiana and I like to believe that I must have done it right because I'm the only person who ever was elected four times to be governor of this state and I'm very proud of that."