Harrison focuses on spending issues
Rep. Joe Harrison, (Dist. 51) said the Louisiana legislature is working toward stopping budgeting and spending of “one-time monies” at the state level.
Harrison spoke at a St. Mary Parish Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Franklin Wednesday.
“We can’t continue in the mode of operation that we’re going in right now with the hope that we can continue to take care of our people with health care services and be able to educate our young people to stay here in this state and build the kind of future we’re all looking for,” he said.
Harrison said there must be accountability in state spending.
“Show me your five-year plan and show me the success of your five-year plan,” he said of funding requests.
Harrison said he voted for tapping the state’s rainy day fund because “it fell within the restraints of the statute…we were able to fill the gaps, reduce the one-time money, and we have to put us back in a better operation mode.”
He said there should be checks and balances on a system like school vouchers.
“You send your child to a private school, you work hard, some parents work two jobs, then take your tax money and send a child to that school on a voucher, I have a problem with that,” Harrison said. “We have to have some responsibility for those people that aren’t working enough with the parents or the parents are not working hard enough with their children, and that’s where our biggest problem is in our schools. Lack of parental involvement in our schools. I’ve written a lot of legislation regarding that, we passed some of it, some were amended on other bills.”
He said applications for an Islamic school in New Orleans shows the need for those checks and balances. “Regardless of where the school is, if you opened it up to religious organizations you cannot deny any religious organization or even a cult from coming in and doing that,” Harrison said. “That’s one of the things I put into the bill that did not get through committee.”
Debate on state pensions was also heavy. Harrison said “on a cash balance plan, (retirees are) guaranteed a portion of that pension, and if the market goes down the state is liable to fill that reserve funding mechanism. I asked in committee where that would come from, and the chairman said the state general budget. I go back to square one: We didn’t have it.”
Harrison said he’s always believed “the people of our state do not want our state employees to have more than them, but they do not want them to have less than them. We’re going to have to repair that later on.”
A $50 billion master plan for costal protection and restoration was also adopted. He commended Parish President Paul Naquin and parish levee district Chairman Bill Hidalgo for their proactive involvement in the master plan process.
An increase in premiums of some 170 percent for St. Mary Parish policyholders under Louisiana Citizens Insurance has “no rhyme or reason,” Harrison said.
“It’s ruining our economy,” he said. “They can’t sell the houses, people are paying more for insurance than they are for their mortgage, even prior to this increase.”
Harrison said he looked at state statue and challenged the increases and is waiting now for an attorney general’s opinion.
“We’re the only state in the nation that divides our insurance by grid,” he said. “We divide our state, under the insurance plan right now for whatever plan, into north Louisiana, central Louisiana and south Louisiana. South Louisiana then pays a terrible price because of that. We should have a composite rating across the whole state and spread the losses…believe me, we’re fighting it, to the point that we’ve had some very, very heated conversations with their board. When we sat there we saw the predominant number of members on the board from north Louisiana.”