With less than one month to go in the 2022 Regular Session, several 1A priorities are nearing the finish line, including extension of key state economic development tools, including the Quality Jobs program, and streamlined sales tax collection. Senate Finance also convened over the weekend to consider the state’s operating budget. Committee members opted to boost transportation funding, including adding another $100 million for completion of I-49 South.
Legislators are teeing up a substantial investment in Louisiana’s transportation infrastructure with the one-time funds made available from federal pandemic aid and additional surplus revenue identified by the Revenue Estimating Committee (REC) last week.
Take a look at where infrastructure investment stands after last week’s Senate Finance hearings on the state’s operating budget, HB 1 by Rep. Zeringue, and other supplemental funding legislation (including HB 406 and HB 592), and HB 2, the state capital outlay budget:
- $300 million for a new Mississippi River Bridge in Baton Rouge
- $200 million for I-49 South from Lafayette to New Orleans
- $200 million for a new I-10 Calcasieu River Bridge
- $150 million for preservation projects
Expect the budget bills to be taken up by the full Senate on Tuesday, 5/17.
Another transportation funding effort 1A was monitoring failed in committee last week when House Appropriations rejected HB 1018 by Rep. Edmonds. The bill would have set aside revenues from the temporary, .45-cent state sales tax set to expire in 2025 to fund transportation infrastructure, potentially providing millions in annual funding for I-49 South and other infrastructure projects, including new bridges in both Lake Charles and Baton Rouge.
HB 1018 failed to advance out of House Appropriations by a vote of 7-8.
Economic Development Toolkit
Last week, the Senate rejected SB 151 by Sen. Pope, a Constitutional Amendment, opposed by 1A, that would have weakened the Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) by locking cumbersome rules for the program into the State Constitution. ITEP has supported direct and indirect job creation in the state for the last 60 years. SB 151 failed by a vote of 14-21. 1A thanks senators for protecting one of Louisiana’s most effective economic development tools.
In other economic development news, two 1A-supported measures advanced last week:
- SB 12 would extend the Competitive Projects Payroll Incentive (CPPI) through 2026. CPPI provides payroll and capital expenditure rebates for businesses that create new net jobs in Louisiana while demonstrating significant out-of-state sales
- SB 41 would extend the Quality Jobs (QJ) program through 2026. QJ helps Louisiana attract diverse industries by offering payroll rebates of up to 6% to companies that create high-quality, full-time jobs. To qualify, jobs created must pay at least $18 per hour and offer health benefits
Both measures were reported favorably by House Ways and Means on 5/9 and now head to the full House for consideration.
Streamlined Sales Tax Collection
Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs advanced HB 681 by Speaker Clay Schexnayder last week. This Constitutional Amendment establishes the State and Local Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Commission to modernize and simplify our tax system for Louisiana’s small businesses. Under the bill, a new, 8-member Commission, with equal representation from state and local government, will administer sales tax collection, auditing, and dispute resolution. The legislation was amended in committee to cap the amount of sales and use tax revenues that the Commission would be able to use on administrative expenses at 0.5%.
HB 681 could be scheduled for a vote in the full Senate as early as Monday, 5/16.
One of 1A’s top workforce development priorities this session is SB 261 by Sen. Cleo Fields. Dubbed the “Universal Transferability” bill, it would provide an easier pathway for students to earn college credits that are guaranteed to count toward an associate or four-year degree.
Today’s students are more likely to attend more than one college or university, or to bring with them postsecondary learning acquired outside of a traditional higher education setting, including through dual enrollment, Advanced Placement (AP) courses, and military training. However, many students are finding out after they’ve taken a course that it doesn’t count toward their degree completion. SB 261 would establish 60-hour “transfer pathways” for each major discipline in the public post-secondary system so there is a clear understanding of which credits can be applied toward a degree, no matter where those credits are earned.
SB 261 was reported favorably by House Education on 5/11 and now moves to the full House.
Senate Education advanced HB 231 by Rep. Ken Brass, which provides for the transfer of academic credit from public postsecondary education institutions that grant bachelor’s degrees to institutions that grant associate degrees. 1A supports the measure as part of our 55 by 25 initiative, which aims to increase the proportion of working-age adults in Acadiana with postsecondary degrees, certificates, or other high-value credentials to 55 percent by 2025. HB 231 was reported favorably by Senate Education on 5/12 and now heads to the full Senate.
Small Business Innovation
1A is also supporting a series of bills by Rep. Willard and Rep. Pressly, HB 786, HB 795, and HB 796, which aim to foster greater entrepreneurship and economic diversification in Louisiana by providing state grants to small businesses that are applying for, or have received, certain federal grants: the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program. The proposal would also provide funding to recruit out-of-state businesses that have successfully utilized SBIR and STTR grants to encourage them to come and innovate in Louisiana.
All three bills were passed by the House on 5/10 and now head to the Senate for consideration.
Two bills that would prioritize vehicle sales tax revenues to be used as leverage for federal matching funds – SB 266 (Ward) and SB 277 (Cortez) – will be considered by the House this week. Collectively, these bills require that a portion of the state’s vehicle sales tax revenue be directed to a new Megaprojects Leverage Fund, where a portion of the funds will be dedicated specifically to completion of the I-49 Lafayette Connector. Both bills are scheduled to be heard in House Appropriations today, 5/16.
Additionally, now that Senate Finance has advanced amended state operating and capital outlay budgets, be on the lookout for a debate on HB 1 and HB 2 in the full Senate.