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|Anders, Riser view special session|
Roads, bridges and waterways will be on the minds of area legislators when they convene Sunday in Baton Rouge for a second special session in a month.
Gov. Bobby Jindal issued his call for the second special session Tuesday. The session is expected to last two weeks.
Jindal outlined a plan to cut taxes for business and industry. He also declared his intentions on how the state should spend some $1 billion in surplus funds left over from the 2006-07 fiscal year.
State Rep. Andy Anders of Clayton said he expected a majority of a projected $1.088 billion surplus to be spent on improving roads and ports around the state.
"The only way we're ever going to have economic development is to have the spending focused on improving our ports and infrastructure," Anders said.
Anders noted there were no surprises in the governor's call, which included 12 proposals Jindal pledged to act on when he was running for governor last fall.
"He had put all of these things on the table during his campaign about what he was going to get done," Anders said. "So far, he's sticking to his guns."
State Sen. Neil Riser of Columbia said the first special legislative session on ethics reform sent a signal to the nation that Louisiana was open for business. He added that he expected the second special session to build on that reputation.
"All of these are needed changes to accelerate the growth of businesses in the state and to attract new businesses to Louisiana," Riser said.
Riser called the taxes on business utilities and business debt "a major deterrent" to business growth in Louisiana. He was referring to taxes Jindal wants to cut in the special session.
Riser also said the session would spend some time and resources focusing on coastal restoration.
State Sen. Bob Kostelka, R-Monroe, said he also expected legislators to focus heavily on infrastructure improvements.
Kostelka pointed out that a large portion of local funding for roads goes into matching funds for the federal highway program. That leaves more than 6,000 miles of rural roads in need of funding in his district, Kostelka said.
"That's why we need to dedicate a lot of this non-recurring money (surplus) to improving roads and ports," Kostelka said.
Kostelka also said he expected ports to become a top funding priority around the state.
Kostelka pointed out lawmakers cannot use the $1.088 billion to fund recurring expenses such as pay raises for state employees. Instead, the money can only be spent on one-time expenditures. That means more money for roads, infrastructure improvements and capital projects, Kostelka said.
Also among the 12 items listed in the governor's call for the second special session were proposed tax reforms for business and franchise taxes.
While campaigning for governor, Jindal took aim at what he called unfair taxes on businesses and vowed to speed up elimination of the state's taxation of business and manufacturing equipment.
"All those were voted to be taken off over seven years under Gov. Blanco," Kostelka said. "Gov. Jindal has expressed an interest in hastening the elimination of those taxes."
State Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, called Louisiana's business taxes "pretty onerous." He said he looked forward to speeding up their elimination.
"I'm hoping that we'll go in there, do our job and do it very quickly," Walsworth said. "We're all on the same path."
Also included in the special call was a proposal to grant tax credits to families who home-school their children and for parents with children attending private schools.
Anders said he was "reserving judgment" on the proposal until more information was available.
"My wife is an educator in the public schools and one of the biggest employers in my district is the public school system," Anders said. "I'll have to do a lot of research on that before I make up my mind on it."
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