Sunday, July 14, 2024

Gubernatorial candidate Waguespack unveils four-part plan to fix Louisiana

by BIZ Magazine

By Victor Skinner | The Center Square contributor

Republican gubernatorial candidate Stephen Waguespack wants to leverage his experience in the private sector to bring free market solutions to Louisiana’s pressing issues, and he released details on Monday outlining his approach.

Waguespack, former chief of staff to former Gov. Bobby Jindal, believes his lack of political credentials is an asset over others in the race to replace term-limited Gov. John Bel Edwards, providing him a unique opportunity to offer solutions that marry government with business and community organizations to tackle problems that have plagued Louisiana for years.

“I’m coming in with an outside perspective,” Waguespack told The Center Square. “I spent most of my career fighting for free market and free enterprise.”

Waguespack’s four-part policy plan released Monday starts with cutting taxes, reducing regulations and simplifying compliance to streamline the process for entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into reality.

“That will help our tax base, it will grow our economy, and it will create better paying jobs for everyone in Louisiana,” according to “The Wags Plan.”

Waguespack, the former CEO of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, believes cutting the red tape will help to draw more businesses, workers and families to the Pelican State, and reverse the tide of young professionals moving elsewhere.

Attracting more people to Louisiana will also require rethinking the state’s approach to education, with The Wags Plan leaning on Waguespack’s experience helping to rebuild New Orleans’ public school system following hurricanes Rita and Katrina in 2005.

Waguespack told The Center Square Louisiana’s current school funding and accountability system that drives students toward four-year degrees that are expensive and often don’t translate into quality employment.

“It’s not what the economy is demanding,” he said. “We have to find a way to instill some hope and pathways for all our families.”

With experience serving on the state school board and multiple local charter school boards, Waguespack plans to bring together a commission of education and business officials with leaders at local colleges, regional training programs, and nonprofit groups to find ways to incentivize schools to “move the needle on outcomes.”

That would involve increasing support for two-year and technical training colleges and aligning programs, and four-year institutions, with industries in Louisiana to equip students with skills employers need. It also involves empowering parents with school choice, utilizing options from education savings accounts with state funds parents can use to put their children in schools that fit their needs, as well as expanding charter school options.

“Parents feel like they’re losing control. We have to give them more authority to put their kids in a quality school,” Waguespack said. “Low-income families right now get stuck, and I don’t think that’s right.”

While Waguespack acknowledged it may be necessary to start by targeting specific student populations for education savings accounts, “I’d want it to be as robust as possible,” he said.

“The long-term goal needs to be freedom for everybody,” Waguespack said. “I think that’s the trend sweeping the country and I think Louisiana needs to get on track or we’ll get left behind.”

Waguespack’s other major policy focus centers on finding solutions to the state’s insurance crisis, for both property and auto.

Skyrocketing rates for both “puts families in an unaffordable death spiral,” Waguespack said. “It’s a huge issue in our state right now.”

Waguespack plans to increase resources for the state’s recently adopted roof fortification program, expand the incentive program to attract more insurers to the state, and pursue “sensible legal reforms to lower the cost of these insurance premiums,” he said.

“We have got to bring the insurers and lawyers in the room and put it all on the table, and I’m going to mediate,” Waguespack said.

If elected, Waguespack said he’d call a special session early next year to implement the reforms, from changes to the legal system, to dedicating surplus dollars to the roof fortification program, to tax and insurance credits for homeowners who invest in protecting their homes against storms.

With car insurance, Waguespack believes increased penalties for driving without insurance would force more residents into the market and lower costs, and he’d offset the expense by eliminating required vehicle inspections.

The inspections, he said, “are a cheap way for the state to find a way to tax you.”

“I’ll try to lower costs elsewhere where I can,” Waguespack said.

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