Blake Miguez, Acadiana’s newest legislator, staring at budget abyss _lowres

Blake Miguez

The newly elected representative for state House District 49 knows he’s weeks away from a legislative session that will be long on budget problems and short on ways to fix those problems.

“This is not going to be a very easy session,” said Blake Miguez, 33, who Saturday trounced his one opponent in a special election by winning 93 percent of the vote.

“It’s going to be difficult. It’s never fun to make cuts,” he said.

Louisiana legislators and Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration are staring at a projected $1.6 billion shortfall for the 2015-16 state budget. State officials also are looking for immediate ways to cut from the current budget $61 million, the amount this fiscal year’s income is expected to fall short because of revenues tied to declining oil prices.

“Everybody’s looking at the budget issue,” Miguez said.

Miguez, of New Iberia, won the special election to fill the unexpired term of former District 49 Rep. Simone Champagne, who resigned to take a job as Youngsville Mayor Ken Ritter’s chief administrative officer.

Champagne, formerly of Jeanerette, was one year shy of completing her second term. District 49 covers parts of Vermilion and Iberia parishes.

A Republican who’s averse to raising taxes, Miguez said revenue shortfalls will have to be made up by cutting spending.

But he said he’s against swinging the budget ax again at higher education, whose university systems have sustained hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts over several years.

Miguez said he’s also against using one-time money for recurring expenses, which has been a practice of Jindal in past budgets that vacuumed money from other areas in a process called fund sweeps.

“I don’t want to say anything negative about the Governor’s Office,” Miguez said. “Obviously, they’ve had their challenges.”

He said he favors cutting some of the tax incentives Louisiana gives certain businesses and industries to make up the shortfall. Asked if he favors cutting money in state health care programs, Miguez held off commenting.

“I’m just a freshman representative” who will lean on the expertise and advice from veteran legislators and department officials, he said.

“I’m going to need to get up to the Capitol. I need to examine all the issues, read the data and make a decision at that point,” Miguez said.

Miguez heads Miguez Fuel in New Iberia, and his family members are principals in SeaTran Marine in Morgan City.

During the weekslong campaign, he said he walked as much of the district as he could and talked to many Iberia and Vermilion parish residents. One of their biggest concerns is coastal erosion and flood protection, he said, but without money to pay for government, the conversations always came back to the budget.

“It is the 900-pound gorilla in the room,” he said.

Married with three small kids — one of them an infant — Miguez said he talked to Speaker of the House Chuck Kleckley on Monday about getting situated in Baton Rouge and getting an office set up in his district.

The Legislature’s regular session begins April 13 and ends June 11.