By Julia Arenstam Staff Writer
U.S. Sen. John Kennedy highlighted his efforts to reduce regulations, cut government spending and increase jobs today at a joint luncheon of area chambers of commerce members.
With a background of being state treasurer for five terms, the Louisiana Republican criticized government spending, saying business owners and individual taxpayers are better stewards of their money.
“Some colleagues think we’re just one tax increase away from prosperity. I’ve never seen a parish, country, city, state or civilization tax itself into prosperity or spend itself into prosperity,” said Kennedy, who has served 19 months in office.
Louisiana ranks 23rd nationally and first in South in state and local spending per capita, he said.
“Whether you like it or not, this is not a wealthy state and yet we spend a lot of money,” Kennedy said.
The state and national deficits are both caused by spending too much, not because the areas are under-taxed, he said.
Yet, the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has begun to return spending power to constituents and is one of the successes of the Senate, Kennedy said.
According to his calculations, individual taxpayers should receive an average savings of almost $3,000 in their paychecks from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed last year. Wages have also increased 2.7 percent from last year. Kennedy also claimed 1.2 million jobs have been created since the bill was passed, and 4 million since President Donald Trump took office.
“We’ve created 1.2 million jobs … we, not government,” Kennedy said to the crowd of business owners from the Houma-Terrebonne, Lafourche, Thibodaux and St Mary chambers of commerce.
While the national economy seems to be improving, Kennedy said Louisiana is still suffering.
The state’s gross domestic product grew at 0.7 percent last year, while the national average was 1.6 percent, he said.
The low labor force participation rate is part of the blame, with the state ranking sixth from the bottom nationally.
“That’s not a list you want to be at the bottom of,” Kennedy said.
To increase participation in the workforce and reduce spending, Kennedy has proposed a mandatory 20-hour work requirement or job force training for all non-disabled individuals ages 18 to 59 who receive food stamps.
The bill failed in the Senate but passed in the House, he said, promising to continue to fight for it.
Reducing the number of regulations on businesses has also been a key goal of his office, Kennedy said.
While rules and regulations are needed, they should not be so burdensome that their costs outweigh their benefits, he said.
He also discussed the National Flood Insurance Program being extended for another four months, although it still lacks a permanent fix.
“People have been settling near water since Moby Dick was a minnow,” Kennedy said, refuting the suggestion that residents of flood-prone areas should “just move.”
The program is is underwater itself, he said, with residents who need insurance the most being unable to afford it.
The Senate is expected to return to session in early September.