How do we improve the state of our state? The recent letter to the editor by Patrick Gibbens, a history professor from New Iberia, hit on one obvious answer. If I had been stuck in the traffic jam on I-10 this morning, I would totally agree that we need a bypass route around Baton Rouge and another bridge across the Mississippi, and that can only happen if we increase gasoline taxes. As I volunteer in public schools in Baton Rouge, I realize regularly how underfinanced our public school system is, and it is no surprise that our public schools are rated 46th worst in the nation according to a recent US News and World Report. 

Supposedly, our Legislature is looking at ways to save money, but the fact that we have the highest incarceration rate of the states or the world doesn’t seem to make our legislators look at changing our criminal justice system to save money. How about the large number of people incarcerated for marijuana possession and some even serving a lifetime sentence for a third conviction? We could save a lot of money by looking at our criminal justice system and possibly looking at improving our mental health system to keep people out of jail. 

I could go on and on, but I think what we have to do is ask our local legislators what they are going to do to solve our problems before the next election cycle, and that does not mean an increase in the sales tax. If the answers don’t make sense, we need to vote every one of them out of office. We could take another look at the Stelly Plan discarded by our ex-governor Bobby Jindal and his followers in the Legislature. We could also take a look at how many of our GOP legislators have signed the Grover Norquist No New Taxes pledge when it is obvious that we do need taxes to pay our bills and move above being the 50th worst state in the United States. What we don’t need are special breaks for favored industries, increased taxes on the poor and less on the rich or the top one percent. What we do need is a turnout of concerned and educated voters and a cleaning house of Legislators satisfied with the status quo or pleased with being the fiftieth worst state in the US.

Ray Schell

retired chemist