LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Coastal restoration, transportation issues and the federal Restore Act were among the topics discussed by U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., Thursday morning in Lake Charles.
Vitter spoke to a crowd gathered at Family and Youth Counseling, a local United Way agency. He was in town to give a legislative update. Vitter was invited by area high school students who met him when they went to Washington, D.C. in July.
Vitter spoke about the federal highway bill, which he said included some reforms and did not add to the nation's deficit. He also spoke about Louisiana's transition from being a "donor state," where the state sent more to Washington through the gasoline tax than it got back.
Vitter also addressed the Restore Act, which he said dedicates a significant portion of BP fines to Louisiana for recovery and restoration. Vitter commented that the U.S. is the richest country as far as energy resources. He said the problem is that the resources are off limits.
Regarding coastal restoration, Vitter said that Louisiana has a good plan, but state officials must execute it.
He also told attendees that the five-year reauthorization of federal flood insurance program will help the real estate and housing markets by providing stability though it will mean higher rates for those who buy flood insurance.
"Many of those reforms are not going to be particularly easy for us in South Louisiana because they make the program more fiscally sustainable for the taxpayer and that means over time, we're going to pay higher rates in flood prone areas. But that's the only way the program can survive. It has to be fiscally sustainable," Vitter said.
Now, just over 70 days away from the presidential election, one new poll has the race in a virtual tie.
The Los Angeles Times-University of Southern California nationwide poll found President Obama leading Mitt Romney by 3 percent which is considered within the poll's margin of error.
Vitter spoke about the divisiveness saying Washington didn't create it. He said it reflects two very different visions in America about which direction our country should be headed. How it all plays out will depend on November elections.
"Fundamentally there are two very different visions of what we want our future to be about -- whether we want a right of center opportunity society or a bigger government entitlement society like most European countries," Vitter said.
One example of the division is the Affordable Health Care Act and the mandate for all employers to provide insurance coverage for procedures some consider immoral.
Vitter said, "I can think of no other instance where the Federal Government has trampled on legitimate issues of conscience like that."
Vitter also talked about energy policy saying that America is the most energy rich nation in the world.
"The problem is we're the only country in the world that takes 90 percent of those resources and puts them off limits and says no, no, no, no, no, no, no! No, you can't drill off the East Coast. No, you can't do anything off the West Coast. No, you can't develop the eastern Gulf of Mexico. No, you can do very little in offshore Alaska," he said.
Vitter said changing that would provide jobs, revenue and energy independence.
On tax reform, he said broadening the tax base is another priority.
"Doing away with special interest loopholes and credits and deductions and special deals and using the revenue we create to lower rates for everyone including American business. Right now we have the highest corporate tax rate in the world and we wonder why jobs sometimes go overseas or flee our country," said Vitter.
Another accomplishment, he said, is the five-year reauthorization of the Federal Flood Insurance Program which he said is good for the economy, though reforms won't be easy for South Louisiana.
"Many of those reforms are not going to be particularly easy for us in South Louisiana because they make the program more fiscally sustainable for the taxpayer and that means over time we're going to pay higher rates in flood prone areas. But that's the only way the program can survive. It has to be fiscally sustainable," Vitter said.
He said he was able to get increases phased in over time, so they're not overnight.
On the 3rd Congressional District race underway, Vitter said he hasn't decided whether to endorse anyone, but that it's a shame to have two incumbents forced to run against each other.
"One fight I've been waging is to not count non citizens in congressional reapportionment. We would not have lost that Congressional District if non citizens were not counted in Congressional redistricting, even if illegals were not counted in Congressional redistricting. I mean it's absolutely absurd that they're part of the count and as a result we lose representation as California gains five seats, as Texas gains two or three seats," Vitter said.
It will be 10 years before the next census. But Vitter said he's trying to get the rule changed so non citizens or illegals are not used in calculations to determine the number of representative seats for each state.
Because the census reduced Louisiana's congressional districts from seven to six, Charles Boustany, from what used to be District 7, is now running against Jeff Landry, the incumbent in District 3. The combined districts are District 3.
Others in the District 3 race include another Republican, Bryan Barrilleaux, Democrat Ron Richard and Libertarian Jim Stark.