SWLA legislative delegation talk redistricting, deficit

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Vickie Peoples

Redistricting and the state’s deficit were on the minds of the Southwest Louisiana legislative delegation on Monday morning. State senator Willie Mount, along with State representatives Mike Danahay, A.B. Franklin, and Johnny Guinn were guest speakers at the Family & Youth Counseling Agency’s legislative breakfast held at the L’Auberge du Lac Casino Resort in Lake Charles. The delegation met with members of Children and Families Action Network (CFAN), Kids Can of Southwest Louisiana (Kids Can) and Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA).
The wheels are in motion on the redistricting process in Louisiana and the delegation stressed the importance of citizens voicing their opinion on the matter.
“On February 22 at 10 a.m. in the Buccaneer Room at the Civic Center, we will be discussing redistricting. That is important to you all because there are some major changes that are being debated already and we want to make sure we have all the information and that we can verbalize at this public hearing exactly what we want,” said Senator Mount. “One example of something that I’m very much opposed to is possibly a very long Congressional district in our area which would go from Shreveport to Cameron.
“It is important that you come out on February 22 and support what we feel like is important to Southwest Louisiana – which is to stay within the Congressional district with Lafayette and Lake Charles,” stated Representative Danahay (D-Sulphur).
“In my district alone, I lost 1,642 people. We need to figure out what we can do for Southwest Louisiana to make it bigger and make it better. I’m here to do what I can to make the state of Louisiana a whole lot better,” said Representative A.B. Franklin (D-Lake Charles).
After speaking on redistricting, the delegation turned to the topic of the state’s budget and deficit.
“We currently have a $25 billion budget in Louisiana. Of that $25 billion, all but $7.7 billion of it is dedicated. Of that $7.7 billion, all but but $2.6 billion of it is non-discretionary spending. That’s spending that we can’t touch. We end up with $2.6 billion left that’s discretionary. Of that, we’re going to have to cut $1.6 billion. So as you can see, the task at hand is very monumental,” said Rep. Danahay.
“Along with every other state in the nation, we’re all facing some very difficult times. Most states who started in this whole process went in and dipped into their trust funds to the principal of their trust funds. We have around $3 billion in trust funds that are protected, that are dedicated to things such as health and education. This state has not done that nor will it contemplate doing that,” stated Sen. Mount.
“We have some tough times ahead of us. The longevity and commitment to your children and your children’s children is that we do in fact have these trust funds that will continue to pay big dividends in the process of education, health care and so forth,” she continued.
Mount further explained how Louisiana, in specific, garnered such a deficit.
“Within the revenue sources for the state, corporate income tax is down; personal income tax is down; all the sources of revenue, sales tax, [are] down. So everything is hitting at once. It’s not a question of what are you doing with this money,” said the state senator.  
“We have to fix expenses. We have to provide for our employees and all those basic services such as insurance that have to be included. So you have automatic dedicated expenses and you have continual declining revenue. Now you know why we have a $1.6 billion deficit,” Mount continued.
She offered advice to those who wonder what can be done for health care and higher education since the two tend to bare the brunt of cuts every time cuts are needed.
“Be engaged in the process of making sure that we pass an amendment that says all dedicated funds will be cut evenly, not just on higher education and health care,” stated Mount.

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