State heads talk about state deficit, oil industry future

SOUTHWEST LOUISIANA (KPLC) - Several state leaders -- State Treasurer John Kennedy, Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Peggy Hatch, Department of Natural Resources Secretary Steven Chustz, Revenue Secretary Tim Barfield and Jim Welsh, commissioner of conservation -- spoke Thursday at the Louisiana Oil and Gas conference at L'Auberge Casino Resort  about how they expect to cope with the budget deficit.

They also fielded questions from those in an industry who all said they do not want to pay any more.

Barfield urged those in attendance to participate in discussions about tax exemptions to keep the state competitive.

"I think the concern that many of the legislators and policymakers have is -- are we giving away too much? What I'm asking for, and I think it's something you all have been good at throughout the years, is just the stewardship from the industry and to say, 'We want to do what's fair. We want to put something on the table. We want to be attractive to Louisiana. We want to be one of the first places where companies put their assets and their resources to grow,'" he said.

Kennedy said the state needs to live within its means and reduce spending.

"I'm going to get my son braces. But that probably means we're not going to Disney World. We're going to go to Grand Isle instead. The way it works in government and it has in Louisiana for a long time -- you order three sets of braces in different colors and go to Grand Isle and Disney World. And that's what we gotta stop doing," he said.

Chustz said the DNR is streamlining and being more efficient.

"When we become more efficient, you become more efficient. We don't want to be in the way of business; we want a partnership where we help you to be come more efficient as well," he said.

Another issue leaders discussed is the possibility that EPA will make its ozone standard stricter, which could affect economic growth and possibly put the area out of compliance with federal air pollution laws.

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