Governor Blanco Pushes Forward

May 1, 2007

Reported by: Associated Press

Instead of focusing on hurricane recovery, Governor Kathleen Blanco wants to frame her final year in office as a push toward the future.

Blanco's term as governor has been defined by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but her 2007 legislative agenda concerns problems that existed in Louisiana before the storms: rotten highways, inadequate health care and public education, a lack of quality jobs and low teacher pay.

The governor outlined her record $29 billion spending plan -- her fixes to those problems -- in a speech yesterday to the Legislature.

Blanco says now is the time to make bold investments in the state's future.

But, that approach didn't go over well with lawmakers from New Orleans and other areas still struggling to recover from the storms. They said the governor ignored hurricane-related issues, including trouble with the state-run school district in New Orleans, storm-damaged local government agencies and a slow-moving repair program for homeowners with storm damage.

The two-month session will also include debate over bills aimed at banning cockfighting, cutting taxes and forcing legislators to disclose their sources of income. At least one bill zeros in on an issue that the governor would rather avoid: state Senator Cleo Fields, of Baton Rouge, has introduced a bill to eliminate the Louisiana Recovery Authority, the body created by Blanco to help storm victims.

Legislative committees are set to begin debating bills today, including measures dealing with tax cuts, Blanco's budget proposal and possible changes to the statewide building code.