LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - What a difference a year makes, the economic downturn is now filling the legislative plates of lawmakers.
"While there were many initiatives overwhelmingly supported by business organizations throughout the state - some passed while some failed," said Chamber SWLA President George Swift.
Lawmakers were honored Thursday for their efforts at the Chamber Southwest Louisiana's Legis-Gator luncheon. The challenge this year on the state level - easing budget cuts to education and healthcare with a 1.7-billion dollar deficit. Though they don't always agree, Sen. Willie Mount says the SWLA Delegation always comes together for what's best.
"We had some contentious moments. I don't think anybody would deny that. But at the end of the day, what we're challenged to do as a legislative body is balance the budget. We don't have the flexibility of legislative spending," said Sen. Mount, District 27.
In Washington, the battle for affordable healthcare remains unsettled - stalled after many believe it was moving too fast.
"We need solutions that basically are tailored to small businesses and individuals who are struggling with the high costs of this. I believe there are a lot of ways to do this in a targeted fashion without running up deficits and without very intrusive government control being proposed in the current legislation in the House," said Congressman Charles Boustany.
"If we don't solve this problem right now... We are spending 35 cents on every tax dollar on healthcare as your government. If we keep this up at this pace we will be at one dollar for every dollar of taxes collected in 20 to 30 years," explained Congressman Charlie Melancon.
At 30-billion dollars a year, agriculture remains the Bayou State's largest business employing more than 297,000 people. This year Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain expects to grow it even more with unprecedented investment.
"Because of your elected officials and your involvement for wanting to do business in Louisiana... We are open for business we are looking for that and we have never before invested this much money," said Strain.
While we're changing the way we do business, we're also changing public opinion. With ethics reform, expectations are now higher.
"I'm able to say that the people of Louisiana are going to demand more of themselves in the private sector and demand more of us in the public sector. It's critically important we do that," said Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu.
Leading by example this year's "Legis-Gator of the Year" recipient was State Representative Stephen Carter of Baton Rouge for his efforts in school board reform.
Also honored were Sen. Mount who took home the "Chairman Award for Healthcare and Education. Rep. Nickie Monica was also awarded the for his role in "Governmental Affairs".