Local legislators report to Les Curieux
State Representatives Blake Miguez and Bob Hensgen, State Senator Jonathan Perry and Charles Dill.
State Senator Jonathan Perry and State Representatives Bob Hensgens and Blake Miguez addressed members and wives of Les Curieux de Vermilion during the most recent dinner meeting of the organization.
Each legislator reported on his particular activities and work carried out during the 2016 sessions of the legislature at the state capitol, which included two special sessions.
All three agreed that the most important, as well as difficult, part of these sessions was dealing with state revenue shortfall and trying to balance the state budget. With a 2.9 billion dollar short fall, due primarily to the decline in oil and gas revenues ; it became impossible to maintain all normal government programs, various agency budgets and planned state spending on infrastructure, education, health and welfare programs.
All three legislators were against tax increases and worked instead to find ways and plans to cut state spending. Budget cuts were made and steps were taken to further review the tax code and possibly reform it by broadening the tax base and simplifying the code.
Representative Miguez stated that the work ahead will likely revolve around three main issues; tax reform, infrastructure, and criminal justice reform. Tax reform will probably center around making changes in the code, as stated previously.
Infrastructure issues relate primarily to aging and failing roads and bridges. An increase in gasoline tax may be forthcoming as a means of providing more funds to meet the 13 billion dollar backlog of road and bridge projects being held back due to lack of funding. The current criminal justice system is not producing the desired results. An expansion of rehab programs for certain types of crime and first offenders may be considered.
Representative Hensgens stated that many legislators are of the opinion that anyone who proposes an increase in revenue by way of increased taxes must also put forth a proposal or plan to make budget cuts to reduce spending. There are still areas of state spending that can be reduced or better managed.
Senator Perry opined that the coming year will present another difficult time for the legislature. Revenue will still likely be in serious short fall and many popular programs wiill face probable cuts along with more cuts in educational funding.
The popular “TOPS” scholarship program will likely need to be revised in a significant way, but hopefully it can be sufficiently maintained to help most of those students that are being aided at present.
The legislators fielded questions from Les Curieux members and their wives for a considerable amount of time - too many to enumerate or present for this article - and their responses and candid remarks to the group were indeed appreciated by all present. All three legislators expressed their pleasure in being able to report to the Les Curieux organization and the benefit to them in conversing with constituents in