WALKER – Remembering the middle class and small-business owners is important for Louisiana’s future, according to a pair of state House District 95 candidates.

Incumbent Rep. Sherman Mack and Robin Parrott appeared at the Chamber of Commerce State Legislative Candidates Forum on Thursday at Wholly Grounds Coffeehouse in Walker.

They were joined by seven other candidates seeking two House seats who fielded a group of questions.

WORKFORCE AND MINIMUM WAGE

Louisiana’s economic challenge is not only trying to attract business, according to Mack.

“The problem is we don’t have the people to fill the jobs,” Mack said. “Our people are not getting the education,” to prepare them for the workforce, he said.

Mack said the petrochemical industry has demands for pipe fitters, plumbers, electricians, welders, and other skilled workers.

Parrott said small businesses need to be asked about the impact of raising the minimum wage. She admitted skilled workers are needed for some jobs, but small businesses also offer an opening for employment. 

“Businesses don’t mind paying their far share of taxes,” Mack said, but they want to know what they are getting in return. Good education systems and a ready labor force will keep businesses in the state and draw more.

Parrott said stabilizing the state budget will help businesses know their tax obligations.

Parrott said her first job was at a Jack in the Box, where she saw older people and single mothers working 40-hour weeks on minimum wages.

“We have to have livable wages,” Parrott said, which would “improve the quality of life.”

Few people in the Legislature work for minimum wage, Mack said, but he had reservations with allowing the federal government to dictate the standard.

CENTRALIZED SALES TAX SYSTEMS

Mack questioned how a centralized sales tax collection system would work. He wanted to know if there would be an appeal process if a local government thought it did not get its share of taxes.

Parrott also said more research into the proposal was needed.

“It sounds more efficient, but I heard local arguments,” she said.

TORT REFORM

“We need to look at tort reform,” as a way to lower Louisiana’s high insurance premiums, Mack said. “It is long overdue.”

But other factors affecting auto insurance that must be addressed is the high DWI arrest levels and the bad shape of roads in north Louisiana, he said.

“I agree insurance rates are too high,” Parrott said.

EDUCATION

Parrott recalled as a teacher that she once had a ninth-grade students who read on a second-grade level.

“We need quality schools for all children,” she said.

She said she would protect the TOPS college program.

“The middle class is the rock of Louisiana,” Mack said, and students need to be prepared for the workforce.

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION

Mack said he would support a constitutional convention, but a limited one.

Health care, including Medicaid, and education make up 75 percent of the state budget that lawmakers can control, he said.

Parrott said she would support a convention, but also had reservations about how much change would be considered.

“Put people first,” she said, without targeting critical funding.

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