State Representative candidates answer questions


    This is the second of a series featuring questions answered by area candidates in the Oct. 24 parish-wide elections. The candidates for State Representative District 28 have submitted their responses to eight questions this newspaper asked concerning the office and the challenges they would face in that position. The parishwide election will be Oct. 24.
    Incumbent Robert Johnson and challenger Brian Bordelon were told  to limit each written response to 150 words and advised that their responses would be printed as written with no corrections for spelling or grammar. The newspaper always reserves the right to remove any potentially libelous remarks, which was not needed in this case.
     Following are the questions and the candidates’ responses:
1. In serving as representative, how would you face an issue that is good for the district but bad for the state?
      Bordelon: Based upon my experience as a businessman and through values I have acquired from my father and life experience, I feel it is always necessary to evaluate a situation from all standpoints and find a solution that does no harm to anyone.  However, these decisions are not always so simple and clear cut, but I assure the people of this parish that I will educate myself on the issues with them in mind while doing my best to protect all interests involved.  
     Johnson: I would vote with Avoyelles! As your State Representative, I can truly tell you these situations are rare. This session a bill came to a vote to raise your gasoline taxes by 20 cents per gallon to fund mega-highway projects in parishes other than Avoyelles.  The bill's author said this was "good for Louisiana" however, I felt differently.  Not only did this not fund one road in Avoyelles Parish, it would have crippled our local economy by taxing our families and businesses!  I voted NO! 
2. Do you agree with term limits or would you be in favor of removing term limits for this and other elected positions? Provide reasons for your position.
   Bordelon: I agree term limitations are necessary and should remain for all elected positions.  It is my belief that term limitations serve as a tool used by the voters to encourage public servants to strive for new ideas and problem solving approaches, along with helping to prevent stagnant terms that result in little or no quality change to our system.
  Johnson: In 1995 the voters of this State voted and passed term limits by constitutional referendum and I would not be in favor of removing term limits for the position of State Representative! Further, I would not be in favor of ever changing a law that our citizens voted on without the citizens being able to vote on said law again. I was elected to serve the people of this Parish and not to serve myself.  The elected positions of this State belong to the people not to the person who occupies the seat. Should the voters want term limits on other elected positions, that issue should be by vote of the people not just by vote of the legislature.
3. What do you see as the role of state representative in the local communities within the district?
    Bordelon: The role of state representative in my view is to serve every citizen, community, city, and village of the parish at the state level. I would be accessible with an open door policy to all, listening to concerns and gathering ideas, promoting our parishes’ valuable resources, and bringing economic growth. 
   I want to hear from our veterans, teachers, farmers, businessman, healthcare workers, retirees, young, and older experienced citizens.
    Johnson: To stand up and fight for our local communities, families, schools, farms, and businesses in Baton Rouge and bring home our share of tax revenue to stimulate our local economy. As your State Representative, I've fought hard to bring home necessary revenue to our local communities. I fought and won a $750.00 annual teacher pay raise and increased our funding for our public schools. In just the last few years, I was able to obtain over $2 million dollars to improve local water systems, over $800,000 in local government assistance programs, and over $24 million in Louisiana Community Development Block Grants, just to name a few. These funds went directly to services in our local communities such as parish, city, and town roads, our local fire departments, our sewer systems, our community centers, our councils on aging, and many other agencies in our community. These efforts were not easy considering the tough financial situation of our State budget; but, working together with each of you we made this happen.
4. How would you address the current state budget problems? Provide a few specific examples of funding cuts, increasing revenues or a combination.
    Bordelon: From the information I have gathered as a private citizen, I understand our state budget to be approximately 25 billion dollars with an already expected cut largely to higher education of 4.6 million.  Several factors contributed to the need for budget cuts and one that I am very concerned with is the decreased revenue from dropping oil prices.  The drastic price drop of oil per barrel is greatly affecting our economy and funding for our budget.
    Johnson: I will NOT balance our State budget on the backs of families and businesses by voting for tax increases.  My record over the last eight years proves that.  First, we must grow our economy in a way that creates new revenue.  Then, we must repeal a portion of the $7 billion in annual tax giveaways going mostly to out of state companies that are not producing a good return on our investment when they don't create new jobs for our citizens. Second, we need to take, the $16 billion of our tax revenue the Federal Government is sending to other States because Bobby Jindal has refused to expand healthcare for our working poor. Bobby Jindal has refused this money generated by our tax dollars which would go not only to healthcare but to pre-k education, high speed internet in rural areas, and a high speed rail system in Louisiana.  Third, we cannot fund our priorities and fix our budget until we have an honest conversation about our structural problems and fix them constitutionally.   While I have fought and have always been willing to fight, to do this as your State Representative, we just need a Governor who is willing to do the same.
5. Would you vote for the expansion of Medicaid?
     Bordelon: I believe in the need to provide care and assistance for those less fortunate, disabled, or just fallen on hard times.  I would make no hasty decision to expand Medicaid without first attempting a serious evaluation of the program.   I would do so in order to ensure funding is secure and available for those truly in need and also to protect the citizens who contribute to the program from fraud, over spending, and mismanagement.
     Johnson: As a Christian, yes.  Luke 10:25-37. The Good Samaritan provided healthcare to his neighbor in need on his own dime. Here in Louisiana we are paying the dime through our taxes and the healthcare is going to other states while our working poor cannot go to the doctor. Many in Avoyelles Parish, working at minimum wage jobs, do not qualify for Medicaid because of their work; but, they are required to get healthcare insurance since the passage of the Affordable Healthcare Act. These workers do not make enough on a minimum wage salary to afford the $200-plus a month for health insurance and are being penalized for not buying it.  A person from another state, making this same salary gets healthcare coverage free funded with our Louisiana taxes. We pay the federal taxes for healthcare for persons living in other states.  I voted to get our money back here in Louisiana, and I will continue to do so.
6. How do you feel about tort (lawsuit) reform?
     Bordelon: I believe that in order for our society to function well financially and in an ethical manner tort reform must be attempted. I would suggest that we do so cautiously in order to not infringe on a persons’ right to justice, but being mindful that our society cannot withstand the problems brought on by frivolous lawsuits. Many of these lawsuits have severe repercussions to citizens and local business owners resulting in higher insurance rates and possible business closures.
    Johnson: I'm against frivolous and junk lawsuits. I would not support efforts that would make justice dependent upon the size of one's bank account. I fought and voted against efforts that would have denied justice to businesses and families requiring every case to be tried by a Jury. Such efforts would have raised the costs to businesses defending junk lawsuits to over six times what it would cost under today's system. Additionally, such efforts would have slammed shut the courthouse doors on vulnerable citizens, like cancer patients, whose insurance companies may have denied them life-saving treatment. Under these reforms, these patients would have had to wait years to get a jury trial and go through great expense at a moment when money and time is scarce.
7. Would you be in favor of a two cent increase in the gasoline tax to be dedicated to improving state highways?
    Bordelon: The excise tax collected from direct use of a product such as gasoline is fair and required so that funds may be collected for use towards maintenance and project improvements.  Currently, the price per gallon of gasoline paid toward tax is 20 cents; which places Louisiana as one of the states paying the lowest gas tax in the nation.
   Johnson: I will NOT vote for any tax increase to be dedicated to roads until the structure of the budget is fixed to prevent dedicated road tax revenue from being spent on everything except roads. Over the past years Bobby Jindal has taken road tax funds and spent them on everything but roads without the vote of the entire legislature. I have been part of the effort to end such practices.  Thus, before I would vote to increase taxes for roads, such a measure would have to be approved by a vote of the people.
8. What is the No. 1 reason to vote for you? (please make this 25 words or less)
    Bordelon: I feel it is a necessity to provide the leadership necessary to give our children the ability to become well-educated and return home to prosper in good jobs.  I want to contribute to the future of our parish, its citizens and the traditions we all hold so dear. 
   Johnson: My record of fighting to keep and create new jobs! Eight years ago I promised you we would not just dream of a better Avoyelles, we would work to create a better Avoyelles. I'm proud of what we have accomplished. 


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