Major infrastructure solutions—including a new Mississippi River bridge and a state gas tax hike—are among the Baton Rouge Area Chamber’s top priorities for the upcoming legislative session that begins April 8.
BRAC announced this morning its five legislative priorities for 2019, which fall into four categories: transportation infrastructure, quality of place, economic competitiveness, and education and workforce.
In addition to a gas tax increase for infrastructure, BRAC will also advocate for funding to complete site selection and environmental analyses for a new bridge, in support of the work of the new five-parish Capital Area Road and Bridge District.
“Bold leadership at the state level is required to address these issues and facilitate business growth in our state,” says 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.”
Regarding economic competitiveness, BRAC will support measures to stabilize and protect tax incentives, such as the Industrial Tax Exemption Program. The chamber advocates for streamlining and clarifying ITEP, as well as further protecting “confidentiality of local project negotiations,” but gives few other specifics.
Long-sought comprehensive tax reform is also a top BRAC priority, including the creation of a uniform and combined sales tax remittance system for state and local governments. The chamber also backs recommendations of the 2017 Task Force on Structural Reforms, and a limited Constitutional Convention for long-term fiscal reforms at the state and local level.
BRAC’s other legislative priorities include measures to improve quality of place and help eliminate blight, such as streamlining the state’s “strict tax sales notice requirements that create overly burdensome hurdles to blight remediation and redevelopment.”
Finally, the chamber supports K-12 education reforms and the expansion of high-quality early childhood education. BRAC will oppose measures to weaken school choice, academic standards and teacher and school accountability. The chamber also supports charter schools having the “same financial footing as other public schools.”