BRAC Announces 2018 Legislative Priorities
Regional EDO identifies five priorities critical to economic growth
Baton Rouge, La. (March 08, 2018) – The Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) today announced five priorities for which the organization will advocate during the 2018 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature, which begins on Monday, March 12, and runs through June 4. BRAC’s agenda can be categorized in three broad categories: transportation infrastructure, the economy, and education and workforce.
“BRAC’s leadership sees the state legislative process as very important to advancing our region’s economic development priorities,” said Ric Kearny, 2018 BRAC Board Chair. “Amidst the messy budget crisis, there are still opportunities to advance priorities that are important to the region.”
“Our region’s business community consistently cites regional traffic congestion and statewide tax instability as critical to regional economic growth,” said Adam Knapp, president and CEO of BRAC. “Our 2018 legislative priorities emphasize empowering the Capital Region to address those barriers to sustained economic development success.”
BRAC outlined the following priorities:
- Secure funding to address the Capital Region’s transportation crisis,sufficient to provide dedicated funding for megaproject infrastructure. BRAC will advocate strongly for the importance of securing a new Mississippi River bridge and its new or upgraded connections providing access to Interstate 10 as its highest priority. In this non-fiscal regular session, BRAC will support the creation of a regional transportation funding option. Such a mechanism would enable the Capital Region to leverage federal and toll funding should it become available. The organization also remains supportive of measures to protect the Transportation Trust Fund and reform the Highway Priority Program. Finally, BRAC supports the approval of GARVEE bond funding sufficient to complete fully the widening of Interstate 10 in Baton Rouge from the “bridge to the split.”
- Support a pro-growth and balanced approach to tax reform during the regular session and in an expected second 2018 special legislative sessionthat maintains Louisiana’s economic competitiveness. The state’s tax policy directly affects the Capital Region’s economic momentum, and should address the need for stable funding for higher education and health care, and provide businesses with the predictability and stability to create jobs. The organization supports measures to enact structural reforms recommended by the 2017 Task Force on Structural Reforms, or measures to close the budget gap that would include extension of part or all of the state’s fifth penny if it creates a path to structural fiscal reforms. BRAC has taken a new position in support of calling a limited Constitutional Convention focused on long-term and comprehensive fiscal reforms at both the state and local level, necessary to resolve our state’s recurring budget issues. BRAC supports greater budget transparency through enactment of the Louisiana Checkbook during the upcoming regular 2018 legislative session, and supports it being placed in the Division of Administration as LaTRAC is currently, or in the Office of the State Treasurer.
- Defend and improve Louisiana’s economic development toolkitby fighting measures that would further negatively impact the state’s critical economic development incentive programs and competitiveness. These include measures to weaken Quality Jobs, Digital Media, or other critical tools. BRAC will work with regional economic development organizations across Louisiana to reinstate full funding for regional economic development marketing activities. BRAC also supports measures that would streamline and clarify processes for the Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP), further protect confidentiality of local project negotiations, and improve processes with regard to the Board of Commerce and Industry. BRAC supports parishes creating predictable criteria for approving ITEP contracts on a parish-by-parish basis across the region. BRAC will support streamlining of local tax agreements, known as Stipulated Tax Payments (STP).
- Protect K-12 educational reforms and student achievement gains and promote expansion of high-quality early childhood education. BRAC will support expanded access to affordable, reliable, high-quality early childcare as a tool to support incumbent workers and improve the foundation of lifelong education. BRAC will oppose efforts that would weaken or dismantle school choice, higher achievement standards, and the state’s teacher and school performance accountability system.
- Increase standards for TOPS. BRAC supports measures to raise the Grade Point Average for the Opportunity Award and ACT eligibility requirements for all award classifications. BRAC supports additional measures being enacted to track employment and placement of TOPS graduates in communities across Louisiana after graduation, in order to better measure and quantify economic impact. BRAC recognizes TOPS as an important tool to retain our talented students in the region and prepare them to enter our workforce, we also understand that changes must be made in order to sustain this program.
Over the years, BRAC has established policy positions on a variety of issues that affect business competitiveness. BRAC will oppose legislation that negatively impacts these policies and imposes costly mandates on business.
About the Baton Rouge Area Chamber
The Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) leads economic development in the nine-parish Baton Rouge Area, working to grow jobs and wealth and to improve the business climate and competitiveness in the region. Today, BRAC investors include more than 1,500 small businesses, mid-sized firms, large industry and entrepreneurial startups, as well as individuals and organizations that support business and economic development. In this capacity, BRAC serves as the voice of the business community, providing knowledge, access, services and advocacy. More information is available at brac.org.