BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) – Ahead of the 2019 regular legislative session, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) announced five priorities the organization plans to advocate for.

“Bold leadership at the state level is required to address these issues and facilitate business growth in our state,” said Jeff Koonce, 2019 chair of BRAC’s Legislative Committee. “We cannot let the upcoming elections be a distraction from the necessity of taking action now on critical issues.”

“Frustration with both inadequate transportation infrastructure and unchecked blight continue to be top concerns of businesses in the Capital Region, and very real hindrances to economic growth,” said Liz Smith, senior vice president of economic competitiveness at BRAC. “Our 2019 legislative priorities reflect those concerns, while also honing in on issues like tax reform and education that are the foundations of long-term prosperity.”

BRAC outlined the following priorities in a press release Tuesday morning:

  • Address the Capital Region’s transportation crisis, sufficient to build the region’s signature transportation projects. BRAC will advocate strongly for securing a new Mississippi River bridge, including the funding necessary to complete site selection and environmental analyses, in support of the work of the new Capital Area Road and Bridge District. BRAC will advocate to increase dollars available for transportation infrastructure at the state level, including through an increase in the state gas tax to address Louisiana’s $7 billion in needed new capacity and $13 billion in backlog maintenance needs. In addition, the organization supports opportunities to enhance the state’s public-private partnership framework. Finally, BRAC supports the full implementation of the GARVEE infrastructure program, including addressing any potential funding gaps in the vital I-10 corridor widening.
  • Enhance the market’s ability to drive exceptional quality of place by streamlining Louisiana’s uniquely strict tax sales notice requirements that create overly burdensome hurdles to blight remediation and redevelopment efforts. Blighted properties, whether created through historical disinvestment or through the impacts of natural disasters, are an issue that impact communities around the Capital Region, and those seeking to address this issue need a modern and efficient regulatory framework within which to work.
  • Support smart, comprehensive tax reform to improve Louisiana’s strained and overly complicated taxing structure. The state’s tax policy directly affects the Capital Region’s economic momentum. It should address the need for stable funding for higher education and health care, while at the same time providing businesses with the predictability and stability to grow jobs. To help small businesses doing business in multiple parishes, BRAC supports creation of a uniform and combined sales tax remittance system for state and local governments. The organization supports measures to enact structural reforms recommended by the 2017 Task Force on Structural Reforms, and a limited Constitutional Convention focused on long-term and comprehensive fiscal reforms at the state and local level.
  • Improve Louisiana’s economic competitiveness by stabilizing and protecting Louisiana’s tax and incentive policy framework, and fighting measures that would further negatively impact the state’s critical economic development incentive programs. These include measures to weaken Quality Jobs, Digital Media, or other tools that come under attack nearly every year, as well as other issues that impact competitiveness such as tort reform, employer mandates, and overly burdensome barriers to employment such as occupational licensing restrictions. BRAC supports measures that would streamline and clarify processes for the Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP), further protect confidentiality of local project negotiations, and improve Board of Commerce and Industry processes. BRAC supports streamlining of local tax agreements, known as Stipulated Tax Payments (STP) or Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT). BRAC will also work with the Regional Economic Alliance of Louisiana, the regional economic development organizations across Louisiana, to increase funding for regional economic development marketing activities.
  • Protect K-12 educational reforms and promote expansion of high-quality early childhood education.  BRAC will support expanded access to affordable, reliable, high-quality early childcare, including the appropriation of additional revenues to this critical area of education. BRAC will oppose efforts that would weaken or dismantle school choice, high academic achievement standards, and the state’s teacher and school performance accountability system. BRAC will further advocate for charter schools to be on the same financial footing as other public schools in regard to borrowing money for improvements and expansions and ensure their access to empty and under-utilized school facilities.

The legislative session begins Monday, Apr. 8 and runs through Thursday, June 6.