What plans do you have to keep our high school students from becoming dropouts and staying in school?
Schools must identify at-risk students and provide opportunities for them to receive counseling, become involved in extracurricular activities, or receive personal tutoring. Students who need extra time to complete high school should be in classes with similar students, possibly at night or through distance learning. A low drop-out rate will reduce Louisiana's unemployment, juvenile delinquency, and government assistance rates.
What are your views on hunters' rights and do you feel any changes need to be made to the state's current hunting laws?
I recognize that hunters are an integral part of wildlife conservation. From the hours they put in as volunteers to the $300 million dollars they contribute annually to wildlife conservation, it is important that hunters retain their rights so they can continue restoring game populations and enhancing habitats of numerous wildlife species. I will maintain a close relationship with the NRA-ILA to directly meet the needs of Louisiana's sportsmen when considering legislation or executive policymaking that will impact hunters.
One state employee says this is the first time in 16 years that Classified State Employees got a raise. She wants to know that since it is the norm for raises to go to faculty or higher education, what is the plan for raising incentives for Classified State Employees?
I support Governor Blanco's pay increases for all Classified and Unclassified State Employees. I will work with the legislature to provide timely pay raises that compensate for cost-of-living fluctuations. Furthermore, I will assess the state's budget, redirect funds, and cut inefficient and duplicative programs to guarantee available monies for state employee pay raises.
People and businesses across northwest Louisiana want to see Interstate 49 finished; yet only bits and pieces of it are being worked on. What are your plans for getting I-49 finished in northwest Louisiana and what is your timetable to get it done?
The extension and completion of I-49 is a vital economic development project in Northwest Louisiana. I support the Blueprint Louisiana agenda for the completion of I-49, which calls for the sustained funding of Louisiana's transportation program, the establishment of funds to speed up mega-projects, and partnerships with the private sector to jointly design, build, and operate toll roads. This project would provide a steady source of funds that would keep Louisiana eligible for federal matching dollars and accelerate the completion of I-49.
State economists said this week the next governor could possibly see an extra one-billion dollars in revenue for next year. What would be your plans for the extra funding?
I will restore Louisiana's coastline and rebuild the state's infrastructure with the budget surplus. To restore the coast, I will work with our universities, local engineers, and environmental action groups to develop cost-effective strategies to rebuild and restore Louisiana's wetlands. I will allocate the remainder of the budget surplus to necessary infrastructure projects throughout the state such as the completion of I-49 and the widening of heavily traveled roads and bridges.
In the last session, the legislature made long-term commitments on short-term "one time" money. If it becomes necessary to either cut government spending or increase taxes, which would you do and why?
I do not support tax increases to fund inflated government spending. In the event the budget cannot support the current level of state spending, I will use my business background to thoroughly study the budget and cut the fat wherever possible. I will eliminate duplicate and inefficient programs, and rework the budget to better serve the needs of the people of Louisiana.
What about the Stelly tax... eliminate it, further modify it, or leave it as it is?
I support repealing what is left of the Stelly tax and restoring tax deductions to their pre-Stelly level.
Do you support the continued use of tax credits like the movie production credit? Are there any you would discontinue?
Louisiana should continue the use of tax credits and incentives to attract businesses and stimulate new industry. In addition, we must make the permitting and licensing processes simple and timely for new business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs.
Do you believe that the teacher pay strategy should place more emphasis on teacher performance and student achievement, or on teacher seniority and degree level?
Teacher pay should include bonuses based on performance and student achievement in addition to their salary set by seniority and degree level. Pay-for-performance plans increase accountability, boost student achievement and retain quality teachers. Further, incentives serve as an effective means to attract quality teachers to low-performing schools and under-staffed departments.
Do you think the state should continue to operate 10 charity hospitals? If so, should LSU maintain authority over them?
LSU should focus on world-class medical education and research by having responsibilities in Louisiana's four academic medical centers. In addition, regional authorities should decide how to deliver healthcare through the remaining hospitals and additional healthcare facilities, including community health clinics.