Interview With Steve Scalise

November 12, 2007

“And so I’m hopeful that Bobby Jindal, when he comes in, puts together some kind of almost like a tiger team task force. People that will work with the local government not just in New Orleans but throughout the entire affected areas including the Rita areas in Southwest Louisiana and work with the local governments to see exactly what they need.

Louisiana Conservative: “Steve, why did we lose the Thyssen Krupp steel mill?”
Representative Steve Scalise: “The main two reasons that Thyssen Krupp told us they chose Alabama over Louisiana were workforce and the high cost of business utilities. Business utilities was something we tried to address right after that by co-authoring legislation to cut $68 million in our business utilities. Unfortunately Governor Blanco vetoed that bill so we are going to come back and try to cut that tax again because clearly that was one of our big impediments in bringing new jobs in our state.”

LC: “Besides ethics, what do you hope to accomplish in the state legislature?”
RSS: “I think right after the ethics special session, which I’m excited about to really send a message to the country that we are going to have a zero tolerance policy against corruption, I think we need to go in an revamp our tax code. There a number of taxes that Louisiana has on the books that no other state has and it keeps companies from coming here and that hurt our local businesses from being able to expand. So, I think right after ethics we need to go in and really tackle the tax code and then address the spending problem.”

LC: “What do the people of Louisiana need to do to help Bobby Jindal succeed as Governor?”
RSS: “Well I think there are so many people across the state that were excited about Bobby’s election and people need to keep that level of enthusiasm and that level of activism that we’ve seen over the last year and a half since Katrina. When we were able to consolidate our levee boards and when we are able to consolidate tax assessors in New Orleans, we were able to do it mainly because the public got involved and so all the people that are excited about Bobby’s election and the change that can come from it need to stay engaged and if we start running into problems again in the legislature, that same level of activism needs to come back up and people need to contact their legislators again and make sure we are able to get the reforms that we need.”

LC: “Speaking of Katrina, what are we as a state doing to rebuild New Orleans?”
RSS: “Well I think that there has not been enough focus from the state level at really expediting the recovery. I think that there’s been a lot of bureaucracy that’s been set up, through the Road Home program and other means, that have not really been moving the money from the Federal Government through the state fast enough to get to people. And so I’m hopeful that Bobby Jindal, when he comes in, puts together some kind of almost like a tiger team task force. People that will work with the local government not just in New Orleans but throughout the entire affected areas including the Rita areas in Southwest Louisiana and work with the local governments to see exactly what they need. We got a lot of resources, we got a lot of Federal money that’s stuck in Baton Rouge. We need to move that money to local people so that people can rebuild their lives.”

LC: “You called for the removal of [District Attorney] Eddie Jordan, which was a good step to making New Orleans a safe place, but what else needs to be done to reduce crime not only in New Orleans but the rest of the state?”
RSS: “Well I think Eddie Jordan leaving office as District Attorney is the most important step in what is a number of changes that need to happen to rebuilding a criminal justice system. The City of New Orleans has just been decimated in their ability to fight crime and I think we need to go back and not only work with this new District Attorney Keva Landrum, helping work with the locals in the city of New Orleans to get the District Attorney’s office back on it’s feet that includes addressing their lawsuits from their other problems that are holding that office back from prosecuting criminals, but then we need to go broader.

“We need to look at the judicial system in New Orleans that’s had a number of problems as well as the police department and make sure that criminal system gets back on its feet. We need to maintain the presence of the National Guard and State Police because they’ve been doing an important job in helping to control crime in some of the less populated areas where people are trying to come back. So, a lot of things we can do at the state level to help the local governments, specifically in New Orleans where crime seems to emanate throughout the suburbs. Crime in New Orleans is not isolated to New Orleans, it’s now becoming a regional problem. We need to control it a lot better at the state level.”

LC: “Louisiana government has a spending problem, any place our government can cut and if so where?”
RSS: “Absolutely there are things we can do. Going back first and starting with some of the additions that Kathleen Blanco made to the budget, she added over a billion dollars in new recurring spending and she added over 1200 new state employees. Our state already was number 1 in the nation per capita state employees which is not a good rating in my mind. I think we need to reduce the number of state employees. We need to go back and completely reshuffle the deck, cut a lot of the new spending that Kathleen Blanco put in place and put that money into cutting taxes that will help in bringing middle class people back and help businesses expand.”

LC: “You are a proponent of school choice, why do you believe in school choice?”
RSS: “I agree with competition, I think competition makes anything better. A free market economy works best when you have more people vying for consumers. If you only have monopolies then it’s easy for people to get stagnant and I think public education we’ve got some of the same problems. Some systems are doing well and some systems are doing very poor and the problem is some parents don’t have the means to send their kids to a private school, you got to give them some ability to keep their kids from being trapped in a failing school. The way we fund education is supposed to be about educating children, it shouldn’t be about creating job services and the parents should be at the front lines of deciding where their kids should have the best chance of having an education. And in the end that should be the parents choice because they are the ones that should be best knowing what’s in the best interest of their children.”

LC: “We know Bobby Jindal is a rising star nationwide, but who do you see as elected officials locally as a rising star?”
RSS: “Well I think with this most recent election, I think you got the ability to have a lot of new rising stars because term limits pushed out some really good people, but it pushed out a lot of bad people too. Even where some good people who have been around a long time left office, I’ve seen that a lot of those people, good and bad, were replaced by people that are really up and coming energetic people that are going to bring in new ideas, so I think term limits is going to create the opportunity for a lot of new rising stars. Time will tell but at least a lot of new people will have the opportunity to bring fresh ideas to government that otherwise would not have been given that opportunity were it not for term limits.”

LC: “Steve I thank you for your time, I know that you’re very busy.”
RSS: “Thank you.”


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