Home Opinion-Free Opinion: Lou Gehrig Burnett – A surprise congressional candidate????

Opinion: Lou Gehrig Burnett – A surprise congressional candidate????

A Surprise Congressional candidate?

Is a Democrat ready to muddy the political waters by entering the 4th Congressional District race?  Could be such a move is in the works. It’s an open seat since incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. John Fleming of Minden is running for the U.S. Senate.  Already, five Republicans have declared their candidacy. They are Dr. Trey Baucum, Councilman Oliver Jenkins, and attorney Rick John of Shreveport; state Rep. Mike Johnson of Bossier City; and former state Sen. Elbert Guillory of Opelousas.

LaLeshia Walker Alford, a Shreveport attorney, told the Fax-Net that she is being encouraged to run by local Democratic leaders and is giving the race serious consideration. She added that she will make a decision next month.
If she decides to enter the race as the lone Democratic candidate and an African-American woman,  it could make the race a lot  more interesting.  And it will be on the ballot at the same time as what promises to be a contentious presidential election.

The 4th District is comprised of all or part of 15 parishes which meander down the western border of Louisiana from the Arkansas border all the way to the southwestern part of the state. There are 467,230 registered voters in the Congressional district.  Of that total, 62% are white, 34% are black, and 4% are other races.
By party affiliation, 46% are Democrats, 30% are Republicans, and 24% are Other/No Party.

Correction on legislative pay

Last week, we had a piece about pay for state legislators. Apparently, it caused some anxiety, not among state legislators, but their assistants. We said that a state legislator receives $3,500 a month to pay his or legislative assistant.  But one legislator called to say that is not correct and is misleading. While it may be an average, it does not reflect the actual salary for assistants.They are considered state employees, and their pay is governed by length of service as are all state employees.

For example, if an assistant worked for a state legislator for 12 years, then went to work for another legislator, his or her pay would be higher than for someone who is just beginning as an assistant.

So, our apologies to those legislative assistants who were led to believe their boss was not paying them a fair salary.  Your salary is regulated by the state based upon length of service. We hope this clarifies things. Whew!

That was probably the reaction from state higher education officials on the final round of budget cuts to balance the current year budget. When Gov. John Bel Edwards was campaigning  for the state’s highest office, he made sure everyone knew his wife, Donna, was a teacher and he was very supportive of education. That fact likely got him a lot of votes from those in the state who are involved in education at all levels.

And true to his promise, when it came down after the Special Session that additional cuts were needed to complete the current year’s budget, Edwards spared higher education.
It was determined that another $30 million in cuts were needed, so Edwards put his knife to health care.  On the bright side, it wasn’t as bad as expected.  It was first thought an additional $70 million in cuts were needed.

The figure was whittled to $30 million through lower-than-expected expenses and efficiencies his administration created since taking office in the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. Colleges and universities will still absorb $28 million that the

Legislature didn’t provide to fully fund the state TOPS program for students during the current year. Schools essentially will have to eat that cost – effectively a budget cut, but not as bad as it could have been.

Not cutting beyond the TOPS shortfall was important to Edwards, who said, “I could not in good conscience put another cut on higher education on the backs of college students after eight years of the deepest cuts to higher education.”

But the bottom line is there is little light at the end of the tunnel.  Next year’s budget hole could approach $2 billion depending upon revenues. A Special Session will likely be called to deal with that impending  disaster.

Lou Gehrig Burnett is a seasoned veteran of national and local politics. He publishes Fax-Net Update, a weekly political newsletter.

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