U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, received a minute-long standing ovation today as he returned to the local area for the first time since he was shot back in June.
Scalise, who represents the southern parts of Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes in the U.S. House, spoke briefly to the South Central Industrial Association about his struggle to recover, his faith and his appreciation for everyone’s prayers and support. He also said he was committed to working hard in Washington to help advance issues for Louisiana and America as a whole.
“To be able to walk into (Congress) and see everyone’s faces again and to get to go vote again and get things done to make sure that after the first week I was there we passed the budget for the first time in two years. I was actually working on that from the hospital, and let me tell you, calling people who are undecided to get them to vote is a lot easier when you tell them you’re calling from the hospital,” Scalise said.
Scalise said he was most proud to announce that coastal restoration money for the state, a constant threat in budgets under Presidents Obama and Trump, was included in the budget. He said passing the budget is the first real step toward tax reform.
While many in the packed room came for Scalise, they stuck around for State Sen. Sharon Hewitt’s speech where she touched on efforts in passing Louisiana’s budget earlier this year, problems she saw with Gov. John Bel Edwards’ plans for the state and what she thought would be best for helping fix Louisiana’s struggling economy and budget.
“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out. If you want to put the state back on its feet, the best thing you can do is put the oil and gas industry back to work,” Hewitt said. “Instead, our administration has a different solution to the situation.”
Hewitt said the Edwards administration trying to get money from legacy and coastal restoration lawsuits, retroactive and speculative severance tax collection and new taxes that hit small businesses in the oil industry are not the way to help Louisiana recover.
“They’re looking at ways to reduce business tax incentives so that we drive out companies like Exxon Mobil with a $11 billion investment to invest in Texas rather than in Louisiana,” Hewitt said. “Louisiana has historically been the second-highest producer of oil and gas in the nation. Oil and gas are Louisiana’s bread and butter. And I believe as the industry goes, so goes the state.”
Hewitt, R-Slidell, proposed cutting benchmark spending and said she would also be working with a task force in the state senate to try to restructure the state’s budget to see if dedicated money can be undedicated and have some of the 387 dedicated fund receiving departments in the state government have to defend their funding like health and hospitals and higher education.
“I do believe there is great opportunity to simplify and clean up our tax structure without raising taxes, but we do need to do some cleanup in that area and I believe there will be some work done in the next session,” Hewitt said. “To me, the answer is creating jobs. You expand the tax base, you create jobs and grow the economy. That’s how we’re going to get Louisiana out of the hole we’re in.”