The four candidates to represent Louisiana’s District 48 in the state House of Representatives were asked a simple question during Wednesday’s Optimist/Rotary forum at the Ramada Inn: If you were elected, what committee would you like to sit on?
The question, which hasn’t been asked in many of the various political forums happening all over the Teche Area, showcased each candidate’s priorities as they make their bid to become the next state representative for the district.
The four — Beau Beaullieu, Dana Dugas, Ricky Gonsoulin and David Levy — were split in their response. Levy and Beaullieu agreed that tax reform was one of the most important committees to serve in the state House of Representatives, although they had very different visions of what kind of reform should be fought for.
For Levy, a businessman who’s worked in the oil industry for more than 20 years, working on tax reform to eliminate tax exemptions was the most important in terms of committee work.
“What’s going on now is the government is in the business of being in business and coming up with various schemes to attract these businesses to Louisiana,” Levy said. “That’s the worst thing the government can be doing.
“The government should not be in these schemes to try and attract businesses to Louisiana, the government should be involved in collecting these taxes and allocating these taxes to make a stable and safe community and then that will attract people and that will attract business and a tax base and money.”
The only Democrat in the candidate field, Levy said programs like the Louisiana Industrial Tax Exemption program are a “ridiculous waste” of time and energy.
“The problem that I have as a businessman is the ITEP exemptions, I have them and it’s a ridiculous waste. We’re wasting too much energy trying to attract business. Just stop and then we can reduce the sales tax because we’ll have more revenue.
“Get to Baton Rouge, eliminate these ridiculous tax exemptions, make this thing more simple. Let’s reduce the sales taxes for poor people and fund our government.”
Beaullieu, also a businessman in the area and a Republican, agreed that Ways and Means topped his list, but for different reasons.
“Mr. Levy was talking about tax reform on Ways and Means, and I would hope that I would be on that committee before Mr. Levy because we don’t see eye-to-eye on how tax reform needs to take place,” Beaullieu said.
Beaullieu said creating a more business-friendly environment in the state and the opportunity to address tax issues were his main motivations for the committee.
“I’ve talked about severance tax being triple what Texas is, our sales tax is also one of the highest in the country,” Beaullieu said. “We have franchise taxes and inventory taxes, just the whole concept of an inventory tax doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”
“I’d like to give local governments the ability to do their taxing authority and not depend on the state for tax dollars, that would all take place in Ways and Means.”
Gonsoulin and Dugas, both Republicans, turned their attention to transportation as their ideal committee placement.
Gonsoulin, an Iberia Parish Councilman, said talking to people in the district has showed him that infrastructure is one of the deepest concerns local residents have right now in terms of state government.
“DOTD budgeted $700 million; they have 4,200 employees and have made one cut since (Gov.) John Bel (Edwards) took office,” Gonsoulin said. “Eighty-five percent of that $700 million goes to bureaucrats and pencil pushers in office, the rest goes to asphalt.
“I’m tired of paying a 16-cent gas tax and it goes to bureaucrats. It needs to go to asphalt, concrete and improving the roads you drive on. That drives the economy, that drives dollars, that allows people to go to work. We have to concentrate on infrastructure.”
Gonsoulin said he would work to pass a state resolution that would put the legislature in control of oversight of DOTD’s budget.
Dugas, the current chairman of the Iberia Parish School Board, largely echoed Gonsoulin’s sentiments.
“Transportation is number one,” Dugas said. “Ricky can’t get his sugar cane to the mill on some of these roads, we can’t get buses from home to school on some of these roads.”
Dugas said better infrastructure would lead to more business, taking an ‘If you pour concrete, they will come’ theme to his response.
“People enjoy Louisiana,” he added. “I’ve been to third world countries that have better roads that we do.”
House District 48 represents portions of New Iberia, St. Martinville, Cade, Loreauville, Youngsville and Broussard.