LABI lists legislative priorities for upcoming session

LABI lists legislative priorities for upcoming session

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - With the legislative session starting Monday, several groups are speaking about their concerns for what should be an interesting couple of weeks at the Louisiana State Capitol.

Stephen Waguespack, the president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, listed their legislative priorities at a luncheon on Wednesday. They are transportation, workforce and the state's legal climate. Areas that could have businesses second guessing if Louisiana is where they want to be.

There are also concerns over Common Core. Waguespack says LABI supports the new education standards because there is proof that the reform is working.

He says, with stats that rank Louisiana 48th in reading and 50th in math, education has an impact on the state's workforce. The challenge, he says, is finding workers who can read, write and stay off drugs.

But there are more concerns.

"It's more critical than ever that we address transportation issues," Waguespack said.

He says the roads in the state are some of the worst and businesses do notice them when deciding how the state's road will affect whether their products can get to consumers.

"When you set up a fund for transportation, raid it and keep taking money, that's why we don't have money to fix the roads," said Senator Bodi White, who also attended Wednesday's event. "The reason we have traffic problems in Baton Rouge."

White says leaders have been dipping into the state's transportation trust fund, money meant for road improvements, and using it for other things like funding state police.

LABI is pushing for lawmakers to use those funds for what they were intended.

There's also an issue with taxes.

"Put an exemption here, credit there, rebate there to try to hide our deficiencies. Instead of fixing that faulty code, we tried to mask it," Waguespack said. He went on to say the state uses those tax incentives to make Louisiana more competitive.

One thing in particular, that costs the state $400 million a year, he'd like to see gone is the inventory tax. Businesses pay the tax to local governments and are later reimbursed by the state. The issue there, many parish and city governments depend on that money for their budgets.

Something else Waguespack says has industry unsure of investing here, the state is sue happy.

"We sue each other a lot. We have a heavy legal climate," said Waguespack. "If we're truly going to compete in the global economy to attract these great investments, the word is out there. That's what Louisiana is."

The LABI president says there is sure to be a lot of yelling at the Capitol this year. The business community hopes their concerns will get a fair hearing.

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