District 22 Representative Terry Brown thinks prison sentence reform, business tax reform, and TOPS scholarships will be among the items discussed in the spring legislative session. Lawmakers convene in Baton Rouge next Monday for their annual session.
The Journal spoke with Brown on prison reform and he said “times have changed and there are people in prison serving long sentences in light of the current sentences being handed down for the same crime.” He added “now they’re not in jail for going to Sunday school, but it is expensive to keep non-violent offenders locked up.” Brown said the state could save $200,000,000 a year by reducing sentences to fit the crime.
On the subject of tax reform, Brown said he thinks there will be some attempt to close business loopholes and film subsidies. “It’s ridiculous that corporations pay nothing while workers have to pay the bulk of taxes” Brown added.
Brown said the movie industry tax credit is another thing to look at. “The state is subsidizing Duck Dynasty and Swamp People. The stars set the large salaries but the Louisiana residents who work for the movie industry are mostly in minimum wage jobs” said Brown. He also voiced opposition to state subsidies to the Saints and Pelicans but Brown doesn’t think that will ever change because of the huge New Orleans vote in the Legislature.
Another issue facing lawmakers is the TOPS scholarship program. Brown says he supports it “but if it is totally free, people see no value in it.” He says “about 30% of students receiving TOPS drop out of college in the first year to year and a half. If they get a degree that’s great, but if they play around and don’t finish, they should have to pay it back.” Representative Kenny Cox voiced a similar sentiment in a recent Journal interview. Brown believes the legislature will find a way to fund the TOPS program this year.
Some final thoughts from Representative Brown are that citizens do not want the state to cut back services. He thinks closing health units, cutbacks in higher education, and salaries offered teachers should be addressed. Brown said “to get the best, we’re going to have to pay the best.