DENHAM SPRINGS – A member of Livingston Parish’s state legislative delegation predicts 2019 will bring big challenges for lawmakers after a 2018 session she called “the best and worst of times.”
Legislators will head into a fiscal session in 2019, one that should focus on a reduction of spending and attracting new business to the state, said state Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs.
“We need to develop more incentives to encourage entrepreneurs and other local businesses,” she said. “This is what generates revenue and will make Louisiana a great place to live in, raise a family, and own a business.
“Our goals should be to make Louisiana the greatest state in the nation,” Hodges said.
The gubernatorial race in October could figure as the most controversial election of 2019, she said.
Hodges believes Republicans should stand united in an election against Democrat incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards, who most pollsters consider a strong contender for reelection.
“To the GOP contenders, I would like to remind them what Ronald Reagan called “The 11th Commandment”: “Thou shalt not speak evil of thy fellow Republican,” she said. “We have seen a lot of bipartisanship on key issues in the House of Representatives and I hope that will continue throughout next year.”
Lawmakers will enter 2019 on the heels of the three special sessions the previous year – the most in state history.
The decision by legislators to raise taxes and increase the budget disappointed Hodges, who believed cuts in spending and contracts would have been a better approach for the state’s future growth.
“It was undoubtedly difficult for all of us as legislators, but more difficult as fiscally conservative legislators,” Hodges said. “Louisiana already has the highest sales tax in the United States, and the internet sales tax that passed last year produced excess taxes which are largely for the surplus we have right now.
Hodges said she plans to continue her focus on flood control issues in 2019.
She wants to push for enforcement and implementation of a statewide flood plain management program that were part of Act 360, which she sponsored in the 2018 legislative session.
“Raising taxes puts a strain on hardworking people of my district who are trying to provide for their families,” she said. “Many have chosen to leave the state because of the higher taxes, which results in less revenue overall for the state.”
The Capital Area Region benefited strongly in 2016 from the announcement of full funding to complete the long-awaited Comite River Diversion Canal, she said.
The $1.2 billion in federal funding Louisiana will receive for flood control leaves no more excuses for the state to address the flood problems it faces, Hodges said.
“Getting the full funding for a major flood control project like the Comite River Diversion Canal this year was a monumental achievement for us after four grueling years of battles,” she said. “With that project underway, we can begin focusing on other flood mitigation projects in the Capital area region.”