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|Tucker: Good representation cost money|
If Louisiana residents want better representation in Baton Rouge, the people need to be prepared to pay legislators more money.
That's according to Speaker of the House Jim Tucker, who spoke at Monroe Chamber of Commerce luncheon Tuesday at the Civic Center.
Tucker said he encountered a number of "good, qualified people" who wanted to run for seats in the Legislature, but could not afford it since it would mean a cut in pay.
Tucker also said he expected the controversial pay raise issue that dominated discussion toward the end of the 2008 regular legislative session to return next year "in some form." The pay raise issue Tucker referred to concerned a bill lawmakers approved, which roughly doubled the annual compensation members of the Legislature collect. Gov. Bobby Jindal vetoed the pay raise bill.
Pay raises for legislators, according to Tucker, should become effective in 2012, the year state legislators who are elected in the 2011 elections take office.
Tucker also touted other accomplishments of the regular legislative session and two special sessions state lawmakers tackled earlier this year.
Among those accomplishments, Tucker commended colleagues for approving comprehensive ethics reform measures. He said the ethics reform bills the Legislature signed off on catapulted Louisiana to the top of rankings of states on ethics in government guidelines.
Following the chamber luncheon, Tucker sat down with The Ouachita Citizen to discuss what he expected to see in the 2009 regular legislative session.
First and foremost, Tucker said legislators need to look at the cost of wear and tear on the state's infrastructure related to the Haynesville shale, a large oil and gas deposit located in northwestern Louisiana.
"With the help of the northeast Louisiana delegation, we dedicated offshore oil royalties to coastal restoration," Tucker said. "I firmly believe we need to take some of the money from the Haynesville shale and make sure it stays in northern Louisiana for infrastructure."
Tax revenues from the oil and gas deposits in northern Louisiana also could help clear a backlog in developing rural roads and highways.
"I think that may be a major source of revenue for economic development and infrastructure in northeastern Louisiana," Tucker said.
Tucker took issue with some of the cuts Jindal made to non-governmental organizations, especially those in rural regions.
"I'm not sure I'd have done what the governor did, but he did it and we have to move on from there," Tucker said.
Instead of complaining about the cuts, Tucker suggested determining ways the state can assist organizations hardest hit by the cuts while still maintaining the governor's standards for fiscal responsibility.
Tucker also said Jindal needed to do a better job explaining cuts he made and why other projects across the state escaped being cut by the governor.
"Clearly there was not as much rhyme and reason to the cuts as we would have liked," Tucker said. "A lot of these cuts make you scratch your head."