The Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) today announced five priorities for which the organization will advocate during the 2017 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature, which begins on Monday, April 10, and runs through June 8. BRAC’s agenda can be categorized in three broad categories: transportation infrastructure, the economy, and education and workforce.
“We consider our legislative priorities as necessary to maintain and build upon the economic development momentum the Capital Region has experienced for the last several years,” said Adam Knapp, president and CEO of BRAC. “But more specifically, our investors have consistently cited traffic congestion as the largest obstacle to business growth, and for that reason we cannot miss out on this opportunity to increase our investment in transportation infrastructure.”
BRAC enumerated the following priorities:
- Secure funding to solve the Capital Region’s transportation crisis, sufficient to provide a comprehensive transportation infrastructure solution to the “Baton Rouge Bottleneck.” As such, BRAC will advocate strongly for the importance of securing a new Mississippi River bridge as its highest priority. In addition to generating revenue, a transportation funding bill must protect new revenue by keeping transportation dollars from being diverted to non-transportation uses or additional agency administrative costs/bureaucracy, and ensure accountability of transportation funding, especially for all new transportation dollars. The new funds must maximize and leverage financing opportunities like public-private partnerships. A major new transportation program must effectively meet the needs of the region and the state through sufficient and significant investment in both new capacity projects that would be bonded to the fastest possible design and construction timelines, as well as significant investment to address the existing maintenance backlog. All new capacity funding should be tied directly to the statewide megaproject lists.
- Defend and improve Louisiana’s economic development toolkit by fighting measures that would further negatively impact the state’s critical economic development incentive programs and competitiveness. BRAC will seek ways to ensure predictability of the Industrial Tax Exemption Program and streamline and simplify its processes, while at the same time supporting streamlining of local Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreements. As the business community adjusts to recent changes in many of the state incentive programs, BRAC will continue to educate decision makers on the value that these programs provide.
- Support a pro-growth and balanced approach to tax reform that maintains Louisiana’s economic competitiveness, protects the Baton Rouge region’s economic development momentum, reflects the concern for stable funding for higher education and health care, and provides businesses the ability to create more jobs.
- Improve strategies for innovation and economic diversification. Specifically, to lead the reestablishment of the Research and Development Tax Incentive to incentivize small businesses to invest in innovation, while also advocating for other policies that will create a more stable tax and financial environment necessary to retain and attract digital media and software businesses to the state and the Baton Rouge region.
- Protect K-12 educational reforms and student achievement gains by opposing efforts that would weaken or dismantle school choice, higher achievement standards, and the state’s teacher and school performance accountability system.
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.