DENHAM SPRINGS – Eddie Rispone says he sees a lot of good things in Louisiana - its natural resources, oil, natural gas reserves, the hospitality to draw tourists and, “We live in a sportsman’s paradise.”
“We have the most diverse and hard-working people in the country here,” he told the Livingston Parish Republican Women on Wednesday. “We can compete anywhere in the U.S. In the oil and gas industry, we brought the technology all over the world, including the North Sea."
“God has blessed us,” Rispone said. “We should be No. 1 in jobs and opportunity. So why are we last,” in various rankings.
According to Rispone, the answer is 'leadership.'
And that is why he says he is running for governor.
“In the governor’s seat, we need someone, a conservative, an outsider, someone with serious business skills, not beholden to interest groups and the backbone to face up to special interests,” Rispone said.
His campaign literature describes him as “pro-life, pro-family, and pro-Second Amendment.”
In his speech, Rispone never mentioned Gov. John Bel Edwards by name, referring to him only by his title. He described Edwards as a “tax-and-spend, liberal Democrat.”
Sixty thousand manufacturing jobs have been lost in the state, Rispone said, spurring an “outmigration” of workers.
“We have raised taxes over the last six years by $6 billion,” he said.
“We have a choice,” Rispone said, “a liberal tax-and-spend career politician who happens to be a Democrat or a conservative outsider with serious business skills who is not dependent on special interests and has the wherewithal to fight the trial lawyers.”
“We need to get more legislators elected who are conservative to work with me and get things done,” he said.
“Why would a 70-year-old man with 24 perfect grandchildren who has no ego problems want to do this,” Rispone asked, drawing chuckles.
“She took care of that ego problem,” he added, gesturing to his wife, Linda.
“We’re here for the next generation,” he said.
“It’s for their future, this is what we need to do. Someone from the outside, a conservative, not beholden.”
Rispone said he grew up in a family of nine in north Baton Rouge and began working in the construction industry at age 15. A graduate of Redemptorist High and LSU, with a B.S. in construction technology, Rispone and his brother, Jerry, founded ISC Constructors in 1989.
ISC employs 3,300 people with annual has revenue of $600 million.
Rispone ran through a list of items he says should be addressed by the next governor:
• “Attack the budget,” he said. “I would recruit talented people to be over agencies, not like the cronies like this governor.”
• Zero-based budgeting, showing each year why money should be spent in an area instead of an automatic 10 percent increase, he said.
• “Lawsuit abuse is killing us,” he said. The average family in Louisiana pays $2,000 more in car insurance that in neighboring states.
• A limited constitutional convention for tax reform. “We have to be competitive with other states, but we’re raising taxes and giving exemptions.”
• Expand vocational-technical training and technical colleges. “Twelve years ago, we found 70 percent of jobs in Louisiana require a post-secondary degree,” he said. “Only 30 percent required a four-year degree.
“We got it backwards. We’re spending 75 percent on four-year colleges and 25 percent on two-year colleges.”
• Education belongs to educators, according to Rispone. “My philosophy is we want all (school) systems to do good, be good.”
“We realized parents have to have a choice. We’re never going to legislate schools,” he said. “We tried and added layer after layer of tests, formats, and regulations. It doesn’t work.
“We have to take the shackles off schools and let them run them the way they want.”
He said school districts such as Livingston, Zachary, Central and Ascension were among the top in the state spending less than $11,000 per student.
Meanwhile, East Baton Rouge Parish is spending $14,000 per student, he said.
“I understand. It’s not money folks; it’s management.”
“God has given us the talent, time and treasure,” Rispone said, "but everyone in the state needs to take part.
“You have to be engaged; you have to take part.”