Tackling transportation ‘crisis,’ constitutional convention headline BRAC legislative priorities

The Advocate

The Baton Rouge Area Chamber is once again making the region’s transportation “crisis” one of its top priorities for the upcoming regular legislative session, and is continuing the call for funding to build a new Mississippi River bridge.

The chamber also said Thursday it supports a “limited constitutional convention” focused on fiscal reforms at the state and local level, calling it necessary to resolve the state’s perennial budget issues.

“Amidst the messy budget crisis, there are still opportunities to advance priorities that are important to the region,” BRAC board Chairman Ric Kearny said in a statement.

BRAC had similar priorities last year, when the chamber, along with a coalition of business groups, supported an increase to the state’s gasoline tax to fund transportation improvements. Knapp also championed a new $1 billion bridge across the Mississippi River as his top priority for 2017. The support for a constitutional convention is a new position.

This year, BRAC supports creating a “regional transportation funding option” to enable the Capital Region to leverage federal and toll funding. The chamber also backs the recently announced I-10 widening project funded by GARVEE bonds.

The regular session begins March 12 and runs through June 4.

The chamber also supports a “pro-growth and balanced approach” to tax reform that should “address the need” for stable higher education and health care funding. BRAC will fight for economic development incentives like Quality Jobs, Digital Media or other tax break programs. The Industrial Tax Exemption Program, a property tax abatement for manufacturers, should have a more streamlined process, BRAC said.

K-12 education reforms and increased standards for TOPS awards round out the chamber’s 2018 legislative priorities.

“Our region’s business community consistently cites regional traffic congestion and statewide tax instability as critical to regional economic growth,” BRAC President and CEO Adam Knapp said. “Our 2018 legislative priorities emphasize empowering the Capital Region to address those barriers to sustained economic development success.”

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