In budget fight, Mizell worried about parish

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, February 24, 2016

State Sen. Beth Mizell said she spent the first week of the special session last week fighting for Washington Parish.

The special session was called by Gov. John Bel Edwards to fix a gap in the current state budget. Mizell said legislators are looking to cut costs in parishes like Washington, in order to balance the budget.

“Locally, the LSU Ag Center is in jeopardy,” said Mizell, a Republican who is in her first term. “My hope is to keep it as an active agricultural resource to our area. I will give more information on that when plans are finalized. Our parish has many state resources supplying employment and we need desperately to preserve the jobs we have and work toward new employment opportunities.”

Besides the ag center, the local hospital could also be on the chopping block, and Mizell is worried the state could look at cuts at the state prison.

“Our Lady of the Angels Hospital currently is an ‘at risk’ facility,” she said. “We must keep that medical facility available to the citizens here as it serves an isolated community and care is sometimes 45 minutes or more from the patient.

“The Rayburn Corrections Center likewise is critical to our area, though the Department of Corrections is in discussion on cut backs of our state prisons. I am hopeful that (the state) will keep Rayburn intact and allow it to continue to be a strong presence here.”

However, Mizell said not all discussion has been about cuts.

“The Senate adjourned Thursday after making over $300 million available from the BP settlement money and the Rainy Day fund,” she said. “We are now waiting for the House to act on the numerous bills before their committees.

“Much discussion in the House is on new revenue options, as well as cost cutting ideas from multiple directions. The challenge is to keep the state functioning without inflicting pain on the business community and our citizens.”

Mizell said that in the weeks ahead, she will continue to fight for Washington Parish’s best interests.

The session will wrap up no later than 6 p.m. March 9. By then, lawmakers are expected to find enough money through cuts, taxes or other means, to fill a budget shortfall of almost $1 billion.