The Louisiana Legislature made significant infrastructure investments during the 2022 session, thanks to state surplus and federal dollars.
Capital Region highlights start with a $300 million down payment for a new Mississippi River bridge crossing, along with up to $40 million in additional recurring dollars for the project. The region also will get $12.5 million for passenger rail service from Baton Rouge to Donaldsonville, a first step toward a route to New Orleans, along with the last of the $26 million needed to dredge and clean up the LSU lakes.
“For the Capital Region, when we talk about outcomes for the session, will always be number one on the list,” says Trey Godfrey, senior vice president of policy with the Baton Rouge Area Chamber.
He says the lakes project will improve Baton Rouge’s “quality of place,” which helps with talent attraction and retention. BRAC also touts the extension of the Quality Jobs and Competitive Projects Payroll Incentive programs, measures to make it easier to transfer college credits, investments in early childhood education, and a bill to promote computer science education, among other measures.
The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry celebrated the defeat of Senate Bill 151, which would have allowed voters to enshrine local approval of Industrial Tax Exemption Program benefits in the state constitution. But local collectors managed to kill a business-backed attempt to hold another statewide vote to centralize sales tax collections.
Though the centralization bill, House Bill 681, had the votes to pass both chambers, local collectors wanted to gut it, and their opposition likely would have doomed the change at the polls, LABI President Stephen Waguespack says, adding that challenging the current system in court might be a viable option.
Waguespack says the unemployment trust fund, tapped out during the pandemic, has been stabilized with a $500 million appropriation, which avoids triggering higher taxes on businesses.
LABI also backed successful bills to create taxpayer-funded education savings accounts for students who are reading below grade level or have other special needs.
“We were proud to be a part of a coordinated effort between the Legislature and the administration to make the most significant infrastructure investment Louisiana has seen in decades,” Waguespack says.