MORGAN CITY — Darrin Guidry touts himself as a pro-business conservative candidate. Bret Allain references himself as one who will bring a common sense approach to Baton Rouge.
Both Republican candidates, fighting to replace longtime state Sen. Butch Gautreaux, D-Morgan City, pitched their platforms to St. Mary Industrial Group members on Monday. They will square off in an Oct. 22 election.
Guidry, a newspaper publisher who is from Patterson and now lives in Terrebonne Parish, expressed the need for economic development in the area, trimming state government spending and employment, and better insurance protection from hurricanes and storms.
He said infrastructure, specifically Interstate 49, must be built to attract business.
Rather than relying on the federal government for the funding, he said that by using various forms of revenues, the roadway could be built.
Another factor to drawing business, Guidry said, is maintaining the Atchafalaya River at its congressionally mandated 20 foot depth. Guidry proposed cutting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers out of the dredging cycle and letting the local port commission do dredging.
“I’ve seen the Corps of Engineers … when they touch something, it (costs) three times as much … to do the project,” said Guidry, a member of the Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District.
He also said the income tax system needs to be more competitive or eliminated because often times Louisiana businesses pay more state taxes than federal taxes and people and money move out of the state in response.
Guidry also said that a catastrophic insurance program uniting several southern states, similar to what Florida has, could be implemented to help following devastating hurricanes.
“The federal government’s not going to come and help us with wind and hail, and catastrophic insurance,” he said.
As far as state government, Guidry said that the state has 258 employees for every 10,000 citizens, while the national average is 143 employees per 10,000 citizens.
Those figures, he said, must be cut.
“I don’t feel bad for forcing these departments to cut because there is a lot of waste,” Guidry said.
He also noted that in 10 years, the government has added 50 percent to the state’s budget.
“The government doesn’t spend like we do,” he said.
Other campaign ideas Guidry expressed are the need to protect higher education and fully fund technical college education, including the re-opening of South Central Louisiana Technical College’s Franklin campus.
Guidry said he supports protection for Bayou Chene and will work toward gaining funding for other measures to bolster the area’s protection from backwater flooding, but said any work done will have to be funded by the local levee districts, because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will not pay for the costly project.
In his remarks, Allain — of Adeline in St. Mary Parish — said he would take a common sense approach to Baton Rouge.
“We need to stop looking at things as how they are and stop asking why, and start seeing things as they should be and ask why not?” Allain said.
If elected, Allain said his top priority is to install a flood protection structure in Bayou Chene so that a barge would not have to be sunk as one was this year to prevent backwater flooding.
He also said that more work needs to be done to revive the area’s once rich stake in the oil and gas industry.
“Other areas of the oil patch have played the game better than we have,” he said. “That’s just a fact.”
To help the area, he suggested forming an industrial council, with assistance from SMIG and the St. Mary Parish Chamber of Commerce and staffed by the area’s brightest, to establish a vision of what the next 15 and 20 years should be.
Like Guidry, another of Allain’s top issues is the I-49 corridor. As a member of the I-49 task force, Allain said he has seen the politics of it and would like to see a new task force formed, and Jindal push for the project to move forward.
“It’s too important and it’s the one thing that could spur economic development in the area,” Allain said.
During the question and answer session, both candidates fielded inquiries about excise taxes and homestead exemption and property taxes, while Guidry also was asked what his role would be in the newspaper he owns, The Tri-Parish Times, if he is elected.
Regarding taxes, Guidry said all of these as well as licenses and taxes only should be used for their intended purposes, not for a revenue source.
Allain said the state’s entire tax structure needs to be looked at because it is burdensome to businesses.
As for pushing for a constitutional convention — with no sitting legislators attending — to address property taxes for businesses and homestead exemption, both said they were in favor of it. However, Guidry said it may be hard to get one set up because once it is open, all things would be open for discussion.
Regarding his role in his newspaper, Guidry said he has stepped away from the paper since the campaign started.
“I don’t even see the newspaper until it comes out,” he said. “I hate to admit it, but I’m so busy with the election, I haven’t had a chance to read it.”
In other news, SMIG announced the election of its officers: President R.E. “Bob” Miller, First Vice President B.A. “Red” Adams, Second Vice President Jim Firmin, and Secretary/Treasurer Greg Roussel.
SMIG members also approved membership for Blake Miguez of Iberia Marine and St. Mary Parish Economic Development Director Frank Fink. With the new members, SMIG’s membership now stands at 149.