U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham speaks during a medal presentation ceremony honoring Lt. Joseph Lafleur, an Army chaplain who served during WWII, Tuesday, October 17, 2017, at St. Landry Catholic Church in Opelousas, La.

Advocate staff photo by LESLIE WESTBROOK

A northeast Louisiana congressman Monday criticized Gov. John Bel Edwards' job performance but said he remains undecided on whether to challenge Edwards' bid for a second term in 2019.

"We are looking at the race," said Fifth District U. S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-Alto, told the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

"There are still a lot of things that need to fall into place before we make that final decision," Abraham said.

Edwards, a Democrat, plans to seek re-election next year.

Abraham, a Republican, said his visits to lunch spots around the state show lots of voters do not trust state government.

"The thing I hear more and more than anything else is just a lack of trust," he said. "To me, being a very simple country boy, that boils down to everything that is important."

Asked his assessment of Edwards two plus year in office Abraham said, "Not much, actually."

Abraham, 63, is a physician and a veterinarian serving his second term in Congress.

Others thought to be possible GOP candidates for governor next  year are U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, R-Madisonville, and state Attorney General Jeff Landry.

Abraham made his comments just hours before the Legislature began another special session, this one for Louisiana's roughly $1 billion shortfall starting July 1.

The congressman sidestepped questions on exactly how he would address state budget problems.

However, he said tax hikes should be not be the answer, especially with the state's abundance of natural resources.

"Taxes will never get you out of a deficit," Abraham said. "Show me some fiscal responsibility and then I will sit down at the table and talk to you."

Critics contend stripping $1 billion from the state operating budget would have devastating consequences on key state services. Asked if he would favor doing so Abraham said, "If that is what it takes to balance the budget, you bet."

Abraham downplayed any possible handicap he would have as a north Louisiana politician running for governor.

"When I talk to Rotaries, the small groups at lunch, they don't care where a politician is from. They want the truth."

The congressman's hometown of Alto is southeast of Monroe.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell.