Investing in Louisiana’s future

We are changing the future of our state. With the final passage of real ethics reform by the Legislature, we can now begin to move Louisiana forward without being burdened by the mistakes of our past. The people of Louisiana have spoken, the Legislature has acted, and change is coming.

Openness and transparency will now be the hallmarks of Louisiana, not the backroom deals and political favors that have sullied our reputation for so long. I want to thank the people of Louisiana for their hard work and dedication in ensuring that we passed real ethics reforms. Louisiana has literally moved from the bottom to the top of the good lists when it comes to disclosure requirements, and the country is taking notice.

Now that we have addressed the negative perception about doing business in our state, we must move swiftly to remove other obstacles that have impaired our economic growth for too long. As a result, Louisiana families are being torn apart by economic uncertainty. Our young people are leaving the state in search of better opportunities. And our communities are struggling to meet needs in education and health care thanks to an uncertain economic base.

That is why I have called the Legislature into a second special session -- to eliminate the burdensome permanent tax on utilities, accelerate the elimination of the tax on investment and accelerate the elimination of the tax on capital debt.

For too long, these archaic taxes have placed hardships on our existing businesses and handicapped us from attracting new businesses. Examples such as the sales tax on utilities only help our neighbors in Texas and Mississippi attract jobs that should be coming to Louisiana, especially in this time of rising energy costs.

Louisiana is one of just three states that taxes the investments of our businesses and punishes them when they buy new machinery and equipment. Businesses are discouraged from modernizing and expanding their facilities. As a result, these taxes hinder businesses from increasing their workforce by hiring additional people.

It’s real simple: if you want to discourage an activity, tax it; if you want to encourage an activity, stop taxing it.

Every time businesses invest in other states and not here in Louisiana we lose more opportunities for our children and face another set-back in our work to ensure our children do not have to leave home to pursue their dreams.

Taxing businesses that borrow money to grow and expand hurts all businesses, but it is especially toxic to the small and family-owned businesses that are the backbone of our economy.  Economic development starts by investing in our businesses here at home first and removing the burdensome taxes that are hindering their growth.

This session is critical because we also have an incredible opportunity to invest in priorities for Louisiana’s future. We must be fiscally responsible and use one-time revenues for one-time projects, instead of simply expanding government bureaucracy.

We must use the state’s surplus to make investments in our state’s priorities, including investments in roads, levees, coastal restoration and ports, critical to the recovery and the needs of our entire state.

With a $14 billion backlog in unmet transportation needs, and thousands of miles of roads and bridges in unacceptable conditions, we must take action. Too many of our roads are filled with potholes and congestion, which cost our people hundreds of dollars in maintenance costs and hundreds of hours in wasted time. That is why we are investing over half of our state’s surplus on transportation and infrastructure needs.

Our investment in new roads and expansion will benefit several vital projects in Louisiana, including the expansion of I-12 in greater Baton Rouge area and in Slidell…four-laning LA 28…expanding I-49 South along US 90 in Lafayette…and completing another segment of I-49 North in Shreveport. By investing in the maintenance of our existing roads, repairing our crumbling bridges and improving the condition of our rural roads, we can begin to erase the years of neglect that have hindered economic growth in our state.

We must also make investments in our ports. With the widening of the Panama Canal expected to be completed in 2014, many of the larger cargo ships will be able to reach the Gulf of Mexico. We must invest in our ports like Mobile and Houston continue to do, and keep our place as a leader in international trade. Our state has five of the nation’s largest ports, and that is why I propose to fund all projects in the port priority program, as well as the expansion of the Port of New Orleans and the Port of Terrebonne.  This investment will lead to thousands of additional skilled jobs, and one company has already agreed to create 1,000 new jobs with an average salary of over $50,000.

We must also focus on coastal restoration and hurricane protection. The time for studies is long past.  The deterioration of our coastline weakens our abilities to protect against future hurricanes, and affects the ecosystem of the entire region.

That is why we must use $300 million, the largest financial commitment in our state’s history, for hurricane protection and coastal restoration. This will not only serve to improve our levees and flood and hurricane protection infrastructure, but will help in protecting our state’s seafood industry, ports, and energy sources.

We must also send a strong signal to the rest of the nation when it comes to our commitment to make Barksdale Air Force Base the permanent home to the Air Force’s Cyber Command.

Having the framework for the facility based in Bossier is undoubtedly a success already but in order to ensure that Barksdale continues to be the home of Cyber, I have proposed a $57 million investment in this special session to improve access along Interstate 220 and make the site even more attractive.

From my meetings with Air Force Secretary Michael Wynn and the President, I know the Air Force is looking for more than promises; they are looking for commitment through action. This investment will put Louisiana in a strong position to bring Cyber Command to Louisiana, bringing thousands of good jobs to Louisiana and transforming the entire I-20 corridor. 

This is an ambitious agenda that recognizes our most critical priority of transforming the business climate so our children do not have to leave Louisiana to pursue their dreams.

By investing in ourselves and our future, we are investing in the success of generations to come.

(Bobby Jindal was sworn in as Governor of Louisiana on January 14, 2008. He was elected Governor of Louisiana on October 20, 2007, winning 60 of 64 parishes. He attended Brown University where he graduated with honors in biology and public policy. Following his graduation from Brown he attended Oxford University in England as a Rhodes Scholar.)

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