WALKER – There are many ways to improve state government, which in turn, will help businesses, and they don’t require spending more money, according to a pair of Senate District 13 candidates.
Making government more efficient and keeping decisions local would help, they said.
J. Rogers Pope, who previously served as state representative from District 71 before facing term limits, and Edith Carlin appeared at the Chamber of Commerce State Legislative Candidates Forum on Thursday at Wholly Grounds Coffeehouse in Walker.
They were among candidates for two House seats who fielded a group of questions.
Neither candidate favored a higher minimum wage decided by the federal government, citing its impact on businesses and workers who might lose jobs.
“The philosophy must be: Look at your businesses. They drive the economy. If you pay more, shoppers will have to pay more.”
Pope said preparing people for better job opportunities is needed and that comes from offering better educational choices.
Carlin, who said she grew up in a small family business, warned if the minimum wage goes up, it would put people out of business.
Reducing the cost to businesses to operate would allow businesses to pay higher wages.
Tax reform is another way to help businesses, but Pope said all tax reform comes down to “who does it, how they word it.”
Better educational opportunities will help people get better jobs, Pope said, citing his 14 years as a school superintendent.
Carlin said the state’s economy is stagnant, because it is hard to attract businesses into Louisiana.
Cutting state spending is another tool, she said.
“I am 100 percent opposed,” to shifting local sales tax collection to a centralized state system, Pope said, in response to the question.
“It’s better off locally … the Revenue Department can’t do the job.”
Carlin called it a “complicated issue,” that could have an effect on the economy.
Collecting sales taxes more efficiently and having a simpler method would attract businesses, she said.
But recruiting and retaining businesses in Louisiana is not a simple task, according to Pope.
Proving incentives to attract business is important, he said, but having an educational system that turns out employees ready to work and the infrastructure to meet business needs are important.
The Legislature can take some steps to help bring business, Carlin said.
“End the franchise tax. End the inventory tax,” she said.
Reduce the work that requires an occupational license – which include fortune-tellers and florists, Carlin added.
Businesses would then “blossom,” she said.
Asked if they favored a constitutional convention, Carlin said she was in favor of a convention or legislative action that would free some funds locked into dedicated areas.
Pope, however, said he opposed a convention unless education funding was protected.
“The reason for dedicated funding was people had no faith in the Legislature,” he said.
Pope said he has been in too many meetings where it was discussed to free education funding so it can be spent in other areas.
On some issues, Pope and Carlin were in agreement.
Carlin called Livingston Parish, “One of the best in the state,” but the problem was the “federal government overreaching to control all school systems.”
“We need high standards, but not Common Core,” she added, targeting the instructional method being used in public schools.
“Get the federal government out of education and get the state out of local education,” Pope said, who added he has opposed Common Core since 2012.
Locally elected officials should determine how local education will work, he said, and if that doesn’t success, people can vote them out of office.
Asked about increasing the state gas tax, Carlin, an engineer, called for major reform in the state Department of Transportation and Development and how it handles projects.
She said DOTD or other state agencies should not ask for more money until they look at their own efficiency.
Public-private partnerships would be an option to get major projects done, she said.
Pope said most of the Livingston Parish legislative delegation would be against a gas tax hike.
The parish needs another bridge over the Amite River, Pope said, since Interstate 12, U.S. 190 and the Magnolia Beach Bridge have trouble handling the flow.
He cited recent accidents that closed I-12 and the traffic jammed U.S. 190.