A regional focus on road projects went the extra mile during the 2019 legislative session, according to state Sen. Rick Ward.
The move toward a connector route from Interstate 10 and La. 415 marked a massive accomplishment for much of the state’s southern corridor, said Ward, R-Port Allen, now near the end of his second term as state senator for a nine-parish region.
The road projects marked a significant stride for the state, which has not devoted revenue for major road projects in nearly 30 years, the 36-year-old lawmaker said.
“It’s definitely in the top two or three things that need to be done, we’ve always seen ‘infrastructure’ or ‘commitment to infrastructure,’ so I think it was a huge thing for the state as a whole,” he said.
The move also played a big part in a move to strengthen the credibility of state government with constituents, he said.
The advancement other states have made on infrastructure in recent years would have made it hard for legislators to keep the trust of taxpayers if the state squandered $600 million in opportunities that came before them through the proposed use of funds from the BP Deepwater Horizon settlement, according to Ward.
The unity of lawmakers on both side of the floor ultimately played the most significant role in legislative success.
“The best way to get people comfortable is the fact that we’re doing the right thing with the dollars provided to us already and that’s by coming together and doing things like this,” he said.
Ward also hailed the teacher pay hikes and additional money for the Minimum Foundation Program, both of which were necessary to improve test scores and improve the quality of education in Louisiana public schools.
“This is the first year we actually added money as opposed to cutting money for education, whether it’s higher education or teacher pay raises, since I’ve been in the legislature,” he said. “It feels good that we took a step forward, and those things go a long way when you’re trying to keep good teachers who would have the opportunity to move somewhere else, so you have to be competitive.”
Ward represents Iberville, West Baton Rouge, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena and East Feliciana parishes, along with a portion of the Zachary area in East Baton Rouge and a part of West Feliciana Parish.