Senator Hewitt discusses budget woes, pledges to fight for constituent values

Local members of the state legislature spoke Thursday to a packed house gathered at Tchefuncta Country Club for what was supposed to be a legislative “wrap-up luncheon” staged by the West St. Tammany Chamber of Commerce.

But with the budget for Fiscal Year 2018-19 yet to be approved, the luncheon was more of a chance for six area legislators, all Republicans, to offer their ideas on compromises and to throw a few darts at Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.

But the overriding message was to pledge to constituents that they’d do what they could to get a budget hammered out before July 1.

The state faces a reported $650 million shortfall if $1 billion in temporary taxes are allowed to expire on June 30, so there was gravity in legislators’ words on Thursday.

"What I’ve heard consistently for the past 48 hours since I’ve been home is ‘Why can’t you guys just fix the problem?,’” said District 1 state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, Slidell. "The short answer is there are too many people riding in the wagon and not enough people pulling the wagon. We have a governor who is great at creating a short-term crisis ... but he’s not really offering any solutions other than raising your taxes. 

“We’ve heard from the governor that we’re kicking grandma to the curb at the nursing homes and closing hospitals and closing universities,” Hewitt said. “A few years ago, we even heard we would eliminate LSU football. Those things aren’t going to happen."

She laid the problems at the feet of the governor's office.

“Two years ago, we all promised to do fiscal reform for the state of Louisiana," she added, "and all we’ve really seen from the governor’s office are broken promises.”

That was a sentiment shared by the five other legislators who attended the luncheon: District 11 Sen. Jack Donahue, Mandeville; District 12 Sen. Beth Mizell, Bogalusa; District 74 Rep. Scott Simon, Abita Springs; District 77 Rep. Mark Wright, Covington; and District 89 Rep. Reid Falconer, Madisonville.

Hewitt said Edwards is asking for nearly $1 billion more in budgetary spending than previous Gov. Bobby Jindal had in his last budget. That’s too big a jump, and any cuts are coming from the wrong areas, legislators said on Thursday.





Senator Sharon Hewitt