U.S. Rep. Graves addresses Gonzales Rotary Club

Halen Doughty
Gonzales Rotary Club President 2017-18 Pierre Rabalais, Rep. Garret Graves, and Rotarian Sharon Morris

Congressman Garret Graves addressed the Rotary Club of Gonzales at Tuesday's meeting saying reforms are being made on the federal level that will greatly benefit Louisiana. Transportation initiatives and rolling back regulations, he said, will help Louisiana's roads and economy.

Graves said we've seen a lot of change in the past year under the new administration. One change has been in the regulatory environment after President Donald Trump signed an executive order requiring two regulations to be eliminated for every one that is created. Graves said in practice, they've seen upwards of twenty restrictions rescinded for each new one that is implemented. This, he said, is great news for the Bayou State.

Graves cited a study by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University that found Louisiana is the most federally regulated state in the country by far. The regulations are because of the state's economy being so tied to the oil and gas industry and chemical plants.

"They found that our state wasn't just the highest regulated in the nation, but it had a 74 percent higher regulatory burden than the national average," said Graves.

Graves acknowledged that regulations are, in some instances, important for protecting the environment and respecting public safety, but overregulation can be problematic. Rolling back unnecessary regulations could be beneficial in getting people back to work, and Graves said we're already seeing improvements as a result of that executive order.

"Those [regulations] are now being rescinded, and we're seeing these changes," said Graves. "Real world examples of things improving, 2.4 million new jobs in the United States, including 200,000 of them in the manufacturing industry."

Infrastructure is another big concern of Graves, as Louisiana has some of the worst road conditions in the country. He said there has been an underinvestment in infrastructure, not for years but for decades. He said it's a problem that disproportionately plagues the capitol region of the state.

"This region has some of the worst traffic in the United States of America, and you don't get that type of statistic or that level without really trying. And what I mean by trying is not doing anything," said Graves. "So we've got not years of investment to make up for, but decades of investment to make up for."

Congress will take up an infrastructure bill that aims to increase funding on the federal level for road improvements around the country. The next step, Graves said, is taking the politics out of the project prioritization process. He said what projects get funding often isn't based on true metrics of what is needed but rather which lawmakers have the strongest political ties. He said there should be a prioritization tool that can inform project decisions.

"We don't need to be building four-lane roads in rural areas that don't have traffic on them while we have the worst traffic in the United States and by far the worst traffic in the State of Louisiana, and we're not making adequate investment here," said Graves.

Graves, who sits on the U.S. House Transportation Committee, said they've worked to prioritize projects and establish grant programs that help fund desperately needed infrastructure improvements across the country. Progress is still being made today, he said, as construction is beginning on a project to widen I-10 between Highland Road and LA 73.

Graves said federal leaders will continue to work and build upon the progress they have made in trying to address the challenges that face the nation. He is optimistic that infrastructure will be funded and prioritized and that regulations will be eliminated so that more jobs can be created. Louisiana, he said, is in line to benefit from that progress.

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