Three candidates running for the open Senate District 25 seat shared their thoughts on the main issues affecting Louisiana during a candidate forum hosted Friday by the Chamber/Southwest Louisiana.
Candidates for the Oct. 12 election include state Reps. Mark Abraham, Kevin Berken and state Rep. John E. “Johnny” Guinn, all Republicans. Sen. Dan “Blade” Morrish, R-Jennings, the incumbent, is term-limted.
Abraham was elected to the House District 36 seat in 2015. Guinn, elected to the House District 37 seat in 2007, is also term-limited.
Guinn said Louisiana doesn’t have “any skin in the game” when it comes to building a new Interstate 10 bridge. The main priority, he said, should be maintaining state highways and bridges.
“We have 16,000 bridges in the state that we’re responsible to tend to,” Guinn said.
Abraham said charging a toll once a new I-10 bridge is built may be necessary to cover any funding gaps on the federal and state levels.
Berken said state government “has been the roadblock” in getting a new I-10 bridge.
“The government needs to get out of the way,” he said.
Early education, along with quality teachers, is key in eliminating poverty in the district and statewide, Berken said. He said he was disappointed the Legislature did not approve a measure during this year’s session that would have used revenue from sports betting to pay for early childhood education programs.
Abraham said adequate training is needed to remove the current job gaps in Southwest Louisiana.
“How do you do that: proper curriculum, proper professors, proper research scientists coming into the state,” he said.
Guinn said not enough residents are in business for themselves.
“You really want the economy to boom? You need to let the people on the bottom make money,” he said.
Abraham said simplifying Louisiana’s tax structure will bring in more industries.
“When they first come here, they’re not getting the right break (or) the right dollars for their industry,” he said.
Berken said Louisiana has “an unfriendly business climate” because of too many regulations.
“Regulations is the ball and chain for our businesses,” he said.
Berken said he wants to remove the state’s $50,000 threshold for jury trials and get rid of the inventory tax.
Abraham said the district should continue to push for extra sources of money for coastal restoration and protection.
Guinn said the state should reactivate the Department of Public Works to concentrate on water management.
“We had some very good programs, some excellent hydraulic engineers,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about.”