The legislative session is less than three weeks away. The Journal sat down with Representative Kenny Cox for a discussion of the issues that he sees are facing Louisiana. Those include doing something to reduce the incarceration rate in the state and funding for TOPS while making students accountable for their scholarships. Cox also expressed concern for the overall condition of the state budget.
Cox said “People in prison for non violent crimes are costing the state $36,000 to $46,000 per year and that is a large drain on the state budget. In addition Louisiana has a high incarceration rate.” Cox favors changes that move non-violent offenders from prisoners to being productive citizens. He said “It’s a budget, image and social thing. The money spent on incarceration could be put toward education to give them the ability to provide for their families. And it would improve the state’s image as well.”
On TOPS, Cox said perhaps the state should look at providing TOPS for students who will be working in job areas that are needed in Louisiana. And Cox adds “These are the things that we will fund. A students should have to spend three to five years working in the state after graduation. If a student does not do that, they should have to pay the scholarship back.” Cox says making the student accountable for the TOPS scholarship is something that is not done at present.
Another item Representative Cox is interested in is maintaining local services. Cox said “We have to budget funds to protect those agencies that provide service to people in local areas.”
There have been discussions around the capital on increasing the state tax on gasoline. On that, Cox said “If there is a gas tax it has to go for fixing our decaying road system. It has to be for that only. It has to be dedicated, But that will not help the rest of the budget.”
Another source of potential revenue is to tax oil and gas that passes through Louisiana ports. Cox said a use tax should be added, but that is not a popular issue with lawmakers. “If you use our port system and you use out pipeline facilities, we should be getting something for that” Cox added.
The regular session of the legislature will convene on Monday April 10th. It must adjourn no later than Thursday June 8th.