Legislative breakfast held
By Shantelle Breaux
CROWLEY – Acadiana area legislators came together at The Ballroom in Crowley on Tuesday morning for the Annual Acadia-Jeff Davis Legislative Breakfast.
State Senator Dan “Blade” Morrish, State Senator Nick Gauthreaux, State Representative John Guinn and State Representative Jack Montoucet all gave their impressions of the upcoming legislative session, which begins April 27, and answered questions from the audience.
Dan “Blade” Morrish, who represents District 25, stated that he expected the upcoming session to be contentious, with the legislature dealing with the budget deficit the state is facing this year and trying to balance the budget.
He stated that he expects the agenda of the session to be mostly fiscal, reflecting the nation and the state’s serious economic times.
However, of the session, Morrish stated, “It is a real opportunity to downsize government.”
According to Morrish, now is the time to take a lot of the opportunities before the state.
The Acadiana area is primed to grow, he stated, and the state can accomplish this by focusing on coastal restoration and becoming a leader in supply energy for this country.
Morris’ focus this session will be to establish the Chenier Plan Coastal Restoration Authority to focus on pooling resources for coastal restoration.
“We need to establish one entity that speaks with one voice,” he said.
Senator Nick Gauthreaux, who represents District 26 and sits on various committees including finance, civil law and commerce, also spoke about the budget deficit. He said that because of the deficit, the legislature will be forced to adopt a smaller government structure, something that he supports wholeheartedly.
The smaller the government, the better, he stated.
Gauthreaux is also against the cuts being made in higher education and health care, and believes that every part of the state budget should take a cut to balance it out.
Gauthreaux also spoke passionately about the debt we owe our veterans who have fought for this country. He stated that he will be introducing a bill this session which would eliminate the state income taxes of military active personnel, thereby letting their families have that extra income.
Freshman State Representative John Guinn, who represents District 37, sits on the transportation, natural resources and agricultural committees.
He began by joking about the unique challenges of dealing with the amount of money involved with the state budget.
“My calculator didn’t have quite enough zeros to deal with it,” he said.
He spoke about the short fall in the state budge, and the constitutional requirement that the budget be balanced, leading to the cuts in health care and education.
He also urged the audience to contact their legislators about what they think about the various issues.
“Make sure that you get your voice heard,” he said.
District 42 State Representative Jack Montoucet, who sits on various committees including transportation and retirement, spoke about the alternative fuel task force in Lafayette.
Montoucet stated that the research, development and production of alternative fuels will help the farming community in the area gain ground.
When the floor was opened for questions, several members of the audience inquired about the possibility of using the state’s so-called Rainy-day Fund to help plug the state deficit.
According to State Senator Morrish, the $9 million in the fund under constitutional protection, with only 1/3 of it able to be used.
Money from the fund is also unable to be used for two consecutive years in a row. Morrish stated that the current administration in Baton Rouge is not in favor of using money from the fund at this time, thinking that the state would need it more in 2011 and 2012.
He also pointed out that revenue from the fund is not recurring.
Another subject brought up in open forum was the cuts the 38 technical colleges in the state are facing.
Senator Gauthreaux, a big supporter of the technical college system, stated that it was unfortunate that technical colleges did not get the amount of funding warranted during the years when the state had a surplus. Because of the low amount of funding received during those years, because of the deficit the state is facing and because the amount of future funding is based on previous amounts given in earlier budgets, technical college funding was not sufficient.
Gauthreaux stated that it is his wish that technical colleges get their due, because of the fact that they provide that state with a trained work force.
In closing remarks, Morrish, Gauthreaux, Guinn and Montoucet urged the public stay in contact with them, and express their thoughts on the issues, as the session nears.
“Call us before we vote, not after,” said Morrish.