STRATEGIC PLAN ITEMS
OTHER STATE, REGIONAL, AND LOCAL ISSUES
BRAC actively engages on any government issue that has a significant impact on economic development in the Baton Rouge area. For instance, changes to labor, fiscal, and taxation policy can often have significant positive or negative impacts on the Baton Rouge area. Listed below are issues that are not specifically covered by a BRAC issue council, yet still represent important components of the region’s economic development.
State- and local-level legislative priorities: pursue significant wins on BRAC’s state- and local-level legislative priorities
The relevant needs of a region demand that there be an aggressive legislative plan in place. Such a plan must be instituted at both the state and local level in order to fully address the critical issues. BRAC’s legislative agenda will advocate for enhancement in areas such as higher education, public education, innovation, and transportation.
Capital Region Legislative Delegation: actively support a partnership of the area’s legislators toward high-level, shared goals that bolster the regional economy
The ability of the Baton Rouge area to secure positive outcomes in the Louisiana Legislature is significantly improved by a cohesive Capital Region Legislative Delegation. As it has in previous years, BRAC will work with the delegation to support initiatives that improve the regional economy.
Economic development organizations: communicate with the peer regional organizations across Louisiana about economic development best practices and state competitiveness
Similar to a partnership with the New Orleans area, it is important that BRAC work with its other regional economic development brethren across the state to share information. By working together, the organizations can strengthen the overall of competitiveness of Louisiana. BRAC has worked with the other seven metropolitan areas in Louisiana to form the Louisiana Regional Leadership Council (LRLC) as a coordinating partnership for the eight regional organizations. The LRLC offers opportunities to share best practices, prepare ideas to assist LED, and pursue support for regional funding from the state.
Groundwater access in the Baton Rouge area: support the use of the best and latest science in determining methods to slow the rate of further salt water intrusion and protect drinking water, while monitoring the impacts to economic development
Since the 1960s, scientists have monitored the movement of salt water across the fault line that passes through EBR Parish, as it moves from the southern side of the fault to the northern side. Baton Rouge drinking water comes from water in the sands on the northern side of the fault, much of it from wells that are in close proximity to the current location of the saltier water. The Department of Natural Resources’ Office of Conservation intends to follow the scientific analysis being prepared by the U.S. Geological Survey in making a determination of how best to prevent further intrusion and access to quality drinking water. Industry has concerns about being forced out of the groundwater rapidly, without clear scientific analysis showing that it addresses the problem.
Super-regional cooperation: engage with Greater New Orleans, Inc. to align the two region’s business communities behind initiatives that provide mutually beneficial economic outcomes for Southeast Louisiana
In order to maximize the economic potential of the Baton Rouge area, BRAC will need to work in coordination with the New Orleans region. In recent years, BRAC has created a partnership with Greater New Orleans, Inc. called the Southeast Super-Region Committee. The goal of the committee is for the two areas’ business communities to focus on specific projects that lead to beneficial economic outcomes for Southeast Louisiana. It is also intended to foster personal relationships between the two regions’ business leaders in an informal manner to create closer strategic alignment toward mutual gain.
Tuscaloosa Marine Shale (TMS): monitor and support the potential development of the TMS in our region
Part of the TMS lies below the northern parishes of the nine-parish Baton Rouge area and represents a major potential shale oil reserve in the United States. The TMS spans approximately 2.7 million acres across central Louisiana and southwest Mississippi, and holds a reservoir of approximately seven billion barrels of oil. TMS oil window depths range from 11,000 feet to 14,000 feet, which has historically made exploration and production in the TMS cost-prohibitive. Advances in horizontal drilling techniques, as well as a strong price of oil, have made the potential for exploration and oil production attractive again. Shale drilling could represent a major economic boost over the next three to five years, if the productivity levels of TMS wells achieve and sustain the necessary quantities. As companies are drilling so-called test wells, BRAC will promote information sharing among the parishes and our economic development allies to connect them with company representatives, industry experts, and workforce solutions.
Governmental ethics: monitor and aggressively oppose efforts to weaken Louisiana’s governmental ethics laws and enforcement programsIn 2008, Louisiana became a national model in governmental laws and enforcement when it passed a series of stringent reforms. These reforms are going a long way in the state’s desire to reverse the long-held perception of government corruption and lack of integrity. The number one third-party ranking that Louisiana garnered has and will continue to pay dividends as we foster new business investment here. However, it is imperative that any efforts to weaken these reforms and anything that would lessen the positive effects of this newfound national distinction be deterred.
Fiscal responsibility: aggressively support initiatives and policies that facilitate investments in long-term economic development
Optimizing resources available for investments in economic development means Louisiana must aggressively manage expenditures in areas that do not contribute to its economic growth and prosperity. To maximize resources for such high-impact areas, state leaders must ensure that Louisiana’s government operations are consistent with appropriate benchmarks in other states, particularly in areas such as health care spending and overall government employment. Aggressive fiscal discipline is necessary because, without targeted investments in areas that drive economic development (e.g., higher education, transportation, and workforce development), Louisiana’s economic growth will lag and social welfare costs will spiral out of control. In order to achieve success, cuts must be made in areas that exceed justifiable levels such that resources can be redirected to economic development priorities. Additionally, the growth rates of expenditure categories that do not directly contribute to economic growth should be carefully managed.
State business taxes and incentives: advocate for targeted tax and incentive reforms that spur growth and remove unorthodox business taxes
- Unorthodox business taxes: pursue changes to state business taxes that put Louisiana in an unfavorable competitive position compared to peer states
While Louisiana has made recent progress in efforts to eliminate unorthodox business taxes, there are still instances that put it at a disadvantage when compared to other states with whom it competes. For example, lawmakers should consider restructuring the state’s corporate franchise tax.
- State business incentives: support efforts to enhance statewide incentives that drive growth in targeted industry sectors
A key aspect of any state and regional economic development program is the ability to provide competitive incentive packages that are tailored to foster stability and growth in sought-after industries. In order to maximize the attractiveness of these incentives, the state must continue to evaluate and enhance the existing incentives to ensure that it remains competitive.
Single, unified collection of sales taxes: support the creation of a single, unified entity overseeing collection of state and local sales taxes
Today, large companies doing business in all of Louisiana’s parishes have to remit sales taxes to fifty-nine governmental bodies. These require audit and oversight by every tax collecting authority, which leads to inefficiencies for government and business alike. BRAC supports the alignment of sales tax collections into a single, unified collection entity.
Ozone attainment: advance legal and political efforts to secure the region’s ozone attainment status from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
As ozone requirements and regulations continue to change, it is imperative that the region continue to aggressively pursue the most up to date ozone attainment designations from the EPA. Failure to achieve approval from the EPA on designation status can have a significant negative impact on the ability of the region to compete for business recruitment projects and to facilitate business expansions. As improvements are made in air quality, the region must continue to ensure that these improvements are recognized by EPA and reflected in the region’s attainment status.
Air emission controls and penalties: oppose efforts by environmental agencies and environmentalists to require expensive controls and/or penalties on Baton Rouge area businesses that do not address the root causes of ozone exceedance
Five parishes in the Baton Rouge area—Ascension, EBR, Iberville, Livingston, and West Baton Rouge—have been challenged in the past by non-attainment with regards to air ozone pollution levels. These pollution levels are associated with numerous complex factors, including industrial activity, traffic, mobile combustion equipment, and natural causes of air pollution. Area industry has been aggressive over the last two decades in reducing air emission levels; however, ozone air pollution levels above federal standards have persisted despite these great strides. Future efforts to achieve attainment with ozone air quality standards should be based on sound science and not focus exclusively on industrial emission sources in a way that jeopardizes the region’s cost competitiveness. In particular, control requirements and/or penalties should be focused on the sources most responsible for exceedance.
Qualifications of key state and local government officials: establish professional requirements for state, regional, and local board/commission appointments
State, regional, and local boards and commissions establish and implement policy that has profound economic impacts on our state and region. Strong leadership on key boards and commissions is critically important to the growth and development of the Baton Rouge area. Improvements in the appointment process that require potential candidates to meet professional and educational qualifications would create a basis for solid, objective evaluation.
Uniformity in property assessments: support efforts to value property for tax collection purposes in a consistent manner that is well-aligned with market valuations
A non-uniform code of property assessment produces differences in measurements of real property values and leads to inflation in millages. In bringing all assessments into line with the true market value of properties and supporting subsequent “roll-backs” where appropriate, the market discourages government from raising millages to unreasonable levels. Uniformity in property assessments will enable a fair tax system and will promote a positive view of government, thus instilling property owner confidence in the economy.
State retirement system: support adjustments to state retirement system requirements
The current state retirement program is out-of-line with the private sector and the evolving life-expectancy of Louisiana citizens. Funding for state workers’ retirement in Louisiana needs to be stabilized to ensure state fiscal security. Amending state retirement systems to raise the retirement age and number of years of service requirements will not only secure a senior workforce in state agencies, but will also ease the burden of the financially unstable retirement system.
At-large representation: expand representation of parish-wide interests with the introduction of at-large seats using proportional voting mechanisms
The current system for electing EBR Metropolitan Council members in EBR and most other regional parish governments provides representation for individual local districts, but does not ensure that a parish-wide perspective is considered by EBR elected officials. Using a proportional voting mechanism such as cumulative voting or the introduction of at-large seats on local councils can encourage a parish-wide focus while also protecting minority voting rights.
Neighborhood redevelopment: support the revitalization of blighted neighborhoods through coordinated, comprehensive planning and reinvestment strategies
The revitalization of blighted neighborhoods has a direct correlation with best demonstrated economic development practices. BRAC will work with organizations such as the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority, Baton Rouge Area Foundation, and the Center for Planning Excellence to develop strategies that attempt to restore blighted properties so that they can be put back into productive use.
Download » BRAC's 2013 Strategic Plan