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Governor Jindal's Second Special Session Speech

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Governor Jindal's Second Special Session Speech

Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, my fellow statewide elected officials, members of the Legislature, my beautiful wife Supriya, honored guests, my fellow Louisianians…

First off, on behalf of the people of Louisiana - Thank You.

Last month you made Louisiana history. The people of our state put forth a challenge for us to make dramatic ethics reform and you answered that challenge.

You sent a signal that ‘who you know' is not more important than ‘what you know.' You sent a signal that Louisiana will be known best for our successes and not our failures. You wiped away the worst chapters of our past and wrote the first great chapter of our future.

And the world is taking note. The Center for Public Integrity says our new financial disclosure law is the strongest law in the nation.

That bears repeating. The strongest legislative ethics law in the country is in Louisiana. Not the fifth best or second best… the very best. Right here in Louisiana.

And it is not just public interest groups who were watching….the people of Louisiana and businesses all around our state and nation were watching. They were watching to see if Louisiana really could change…. if it really is a new day…. if they can invest in our state with confidence.

They were watching… and the message they got was clear….. there is a New Louisiana.

The skeptics said we couldn't get it done, but you proved them wrong. And that will be the first of many times you prove them wrong.

Now…while we have their attention, we must move swiftly to remove other obstacles that have impaired our economic growth for too long…and that is the purpose for which I have called you here today. And it is a purpose that touches the lives of everyone in our state.

With our shared values and strong sense of community, Louisiana is perhaps the best place in the world to raise a family.

But today, 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.

We all know that state government cannot solve every economic problem… and it should not even try. But it is our obligation as leaders to make sure that state government makes Louisiana a place where businesses can startup and thrive… where employers can put down roots… where families can count on good careers.

If we are honest with ourselves, we must acknowledge that today, our state has some of the most unfriendly business policies in the country… policies that are costing our state investment and jobs.

Part of the reason our economy struggles is because state government is in the way.

My friends…that can change, that must change, that will change.

For decades, the rest of the states in the South have competed aggressively to not simply recruit businesses from other places but to make their existing businesses flourish.

Cities like Atlanta and Austin have become huge economic hubs, invested in their abilities, cultivated their assets, and developed unique areas of excellence while Louisiana did not.

That must change.

Now that we have addressed the negative perception about doing business in our state, today we begin to directly target the archaic business taxes that are discouraging further investment by our existing Louisiana businesses and detracting businesses from across the country who are considering investing here.

In this special session, we will eliminate the burdensome permanent tax on business utilities, accelerate the elimination of the tax on business investment and accelerate the elimination of the tax on capital debt.

These are bold steps toward a New Louisiana. The first major step was creating the national gold standard for ethics reform in our first special session. Now, we take the next step in this second special session to transform our business climate and stimulate economic growth. Next, we will revamp our workforce training programs to cultivate the highest-trained, most skilled workforce in the world right here in Louisiana.

These are all critical steps toward greater business growth, more jobs, and more opportunities for our young people so our children and our grandchildren no longer have to move away to pursue their dreams.

I know in this session we will all hear a lot of numbers; but let me be clear, this session is about more than numbers. It is about real people, real businesses, real jobs…the future of our economy, and more importantly, the future of our people.

I want to welcome Karen Kay of Angus Chemical Company in Northeast Louisiana here with us today. Please welcome her.

Angus is owned by DOW, which operates six plants in the state and employs more than 6,000 people.

Karen is the site manager for the Sterlington plant and she knows first-hand the incredible disadvantage the sales tax on utilities puts on Dow's Louisiana plants. It adds up to a $22 million competitive disadvantage compared to Dow's Texas facilities, but more importantly, it jeopardizes future job creation that won't come to Louisiana if Dow chooses to reinvest in other states.

It adds up to opportunities that could one day grow and expand for Texas children, but not for our Louisiana children.

This cost is too high. This cost must be eliminated.

In this session, we must entirely eliminate the "permanent penny" on business utilities.

We must also accelerate the elimination of those taxes on business investments in equipment and machinery and the tax on business debt.

Louisiana is one of just three states that taxes the investments of our businesses and punishes them when they buy new machinery and equipment.

It's real simple: if you want to discourage an activity, tax it; if you want to encourage an activity, stop taxing it. It makes no sense to discourage businesses from buying new equipment and machinery here in Louisiana.

Greg Van Voorhies, the manager of International Paper in Bastrop, is also here with us tonight... Please welcome him… Greg told me that the mill's newest equipment is often older than the oldest equipment in other states, because the tax on buying new equipment in Louisiana costs too much to be worth the investment here.

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.

We must accelerate the elimination of the tax on business investments - and we must also go one step further and speed up the elimination of the tax on capital debt.

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.

That must change.

Economic development starts by investing in our businesses here at home first and removing the burdensome taxes that are hindering their growth. We must speed up the elimination of this tax once and for all.

We must also continue to encourage investment in our low-to-moderate income areas.

Last year, many of you voted to create New Markets Tax Credits to encourage growth in lower income areas and investors responded - using the entire $50 million in credits authorized to attract $200 million in investments.

Now, we must reauthorize this program so investors do not now turn to other states, like Mississippi, which has authorized $15 million in credits a year.

This investment will go to other states if Louisiana doesn't reauthorize the New Markets Tax Credit Program in this session and position our state so we can compete for these investors. This investment is important for our continued recovery and growth across the entire state.

This session is critical because not only do we have an opportunity to eliminate burdensome taxes on our businesses and transform our economic climate, but we also have an incredible opportunity to invest in priorities for Louisiana's future.

We have a $1 billion surplus from the 2007 fiscal year - most of this is one-time money. In the past, Louisiana has often spent one-time money on recurring expenses - tying the state to future debt and neglecting opportunities to pay down one-time expenses with one-time money. That's like using your credit card to pay your mortgage.

That must change.

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

The Times-Picayune said that the priority list laid out for this special session along with our proposed budget for next year moves "Louisiana in a fiscally-responsible direction."

I laid out a plan earlier this week that calls for a $515 million investment in transportation and infrastructure to improve roads, bridges, and ports all across the state.

This investment fully funds ALL projects in the state's Port Priority Program and will aid the repair of dozens of state and parish bridges to prevent their closure.

Fully funding the Port Priority List includes funding for the Port of Iberia, the Greater Lafourche Port Commission, the Port of South Louisiana, the Caddo/Bossier Port Commission, the Lake Charles Harbor and Terminal District, and the Port of New Orleans.

Additionally, it is a priority for the economic development of New Orleans and Louisiana to invest $25 million in the expansion at the Port of New Orleans. This will help expand the terminal capacity by 45 percent and enable the port to secure a long-term commitment from of one of the world's largest container carriers.

In Terrebonne Parish, an investment in the Port of Terrebonne's expansion plans will provide the capacity to operate LaShip - a shipyard facility which will bring 1,000 new skilled jobs to the area with an average annual salary of $54,000. Those are ONE THOUSAND NEW high-paying jobs for the area. One thousand new jobs means a thousand more people - and their families - investing in the local economy, putting down roots in the community, and pursuing their dreams right here at home.

Gary Chouest of Edison Chouest Offshore, which also owns LaShip, is here tonight. Please welcome him. Gary - thank you for your work to create more Louisiana jobs and opportunities for our children to find great careers right here in Louisiana.

In this session, we must also tackle highway congestion and our poor roads and bridges - which are impeding business growth, economic expansion, and thus hindering job creation.

Too many of our roads are filled with potholes and congestion. This is costing our people hundreds of dollars in maintenance costs and hundreds of hours in wasted time.

That must change.

A $209 million investment in new roads and expansion will benefit several vital projects in Louisiana, including the expansion of I-12 in the 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.

Investing in our state's future expands beyond even our roads, our ports and our infrastructure. I want to recognize Craig Spohn, Executive Director of the Cyber Innovation Center, and Bill Altimus, Co-Chairman of the Cyber Innovation Group, who have joined us here tonight. Please welcome them.

Craig and Bill along with the Shreveport-Bossier community and the delegation in the area have been working non-stop to make Barksdale the permanent home of the Cyber Command facility and have already committed 50 million dollars in local money to the site.

Having the framework for the facility based in Bossier is undoubtedly a success already and we have these community leaders here with us tonight and the area delegation to thank…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.

We have to show our commitment.

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. And action is what we are taking with this investment in the future of the Northwest Region and our entire state. Cyber will bring thousands of good, high-paying technical jobs to Louisiana and transform the entire I-20 corridor.

In this special session, we are showing the military that Louisiana wants to be a strong partner in their continued presence and growth here in our state. We are providing the framework for Federal City in Algiers, completing a critical access road for the Army at Fort Polk, and we are providing greater infrastructure for the Air Force at Barksdale.

Our message to the brave men and women who wear our country's uniform is that we welcome and support you in Louisiana.

Let me be clear: this means hundreds of new jobs, new opportunities, and good-paying, rewarding careers so our Louisiana children don't have to move away to other states to pursue their dreams. From Terrebone to Bossier, we have to create opportunities for our young people right here at home.

We must also tackle another common-sense reform in this session - and dedicate the taxes and fees already paid for transportation expenses toward transportation needs. Most citizens assume their vehicle taxes and license fees are already going to transportation needs - but they are currently being diverted into the general fund.

That must change.

Driving Louisiana Forward has applauded this common-sense reform that will provide more than $250 million each year to use on our roads and ports within the next five years.

Louisiana currently get an "F" grade for our roads and this common-sense reform will help ensure Louisiana goes to the top of another "good" list.

We must also make an unprecedented investment in our hurricane protection and coastal restoration efforts.

I have proposed a $300 million investment - the largest financial commitment in our state's history - to hurricane protection and coastal restoration efforts.

We must begin to fund the projects in our state's master plan immediately - so we can get to work on protecting our coast and guarding against the next possible disaster.

I know Doc Gaidry is here with us tonight. Please welcome him. Doc has lived along the coast of South Louisiana for more than 70 years and he can attest to the deterioration of our coastline just in his lifetime alone - a deterioration that weakens our abilities to protect against future hurricanes, and affects the ecosystem of the entire region.

Tonight, I want to be clear: coastal restoration can no longer wait. Hurricane protection efforts can no longer be delayed. The time for studies is long past gone. We need to get started. We need to get to work on our coast.

Just in the amount of time we have been here tonight, we will have lost another two football fields worth of coast off our shores.

That must change. With the investment made in this session, construction can finally begin on many of these coastal projects.

Another critical investment for our state's future is $50 million for Pennington Biomedical Research Center - a world leader in nutrition research.

Pennington, based right here in Baton Rouge, has been a strong investment for the state for years. In fact, for every dollar the state has invested, Pennington has provided three to four dollars in return.

Dr. Donna Ryan, the Associate Executive Director for Clinical Research at Pennington is here tonight. Please help me welcome her. Dr. Ryan, I want you to know that this investment is just a first step in our efforts to invest in research institutions all across the state to invest in your future results and success that will benefit our community, and to make our research centers even more competitive for federal and private sector investments.

We must ensure that Pennington continues to be a place where miracle cures are discovered for the world and exciting new jobs are created for our people.

Indeed, I remember as a young biology student doing research at the Pennington facility shortly after it opened and it is exciting to see the incredible progress being made.

Currently, the University of Alabama at Birmingham receives more federal research funding than all of Louisiana's public universities combined.

That must change. Alabama cannot beat us in football; they cannot beat us in research.

Our investment in Pennington will help attract more skilled researchers and provide more than 1,100 new jobs, resulting in more than $40 million in earnings annually, and generating an economic impact of more than $110 million every year.

Again, these are a THOUSAND jobs and a thousand more opportunities for Louisiana children to pursue rewarding careers right here at home.

Today's investment in Pennington will pay dividends for the state in the years to come.

In addition to investing in our institutions of research, we must also invest in our institutions of higher education.

Right now, too many of our campuses have buildings with leaking roofs and other deferred maintenance issues. We must commit more to our educational facilities. Ensuring they are places of learning and excellence, requires them to first be places of safety with fully operational equipment.

We must also encourage more Louisianians to take advantage of our state's many educational opportunities by providing a tuition deduction that will allow parents to keep more of their hard-earned money so they can invest in their child's education.

It is smart policy to allow families tax deductions for tuition and qualified educational expenses for their children.

Similar legislation was passed last year, but was unfortunately vetoed.

This year, we must make sure this becomes law.

Louisianians deserve to keep more of the money they earn in their own pocket.

President Bush recently signed an economic stimulus package that will give around 1.9 million Louisianians a federal rebate check - returning tax money to taxpayers.

This return of funds to taxpayers should not be subjected to yet another tax as income at the state level. In this session, we must ensure that the state does not take away with one hand what the federal government gives with another.

Finally, we must also make investments in our state's ever-growing cost of retirement benefits for teachers and state workers.

This is a debt that will fall on our children if we do not make critical investments today.

For every dollar we invest now, Louisiana will save more than four dollars in interest, reduce the burden on future generations, and fulfill our promises to our teachers and state workers so they are secure in their retirement.

Tonight, I have offered an ambitious agenda for our state.

An 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.

We should not be exporting our greatest asset - Louisiana's sons and daughters. We should not be losing investment to other states in the South. We should not be sitting on the sidelines of global economic competition while cities which were once small towns become giants of economic vitality.

This must change. That change begins now.

We have a wonderful state. We are blessed with tremendous natural resources and skilled people. It is critical that we begin to invest in ourselves - invest in our future - invest in the success of generations to come.

I have laid out many priorities. There is much work to be done.

Just as you did last session, I know we will all deliver another big win to the people of Louisiana in this special session.

The work will be long and it will not be easy, but we have all heard the message from Louisianians loud and clear…The message that we must immediately get to work on turning our state around and making Louisiana the best place in the world to get a high-paying job and pursue a great career.

Over these next days and weeks, let's come together once again…just as we did last month… Democrats and Republicans…. North and South….. to drive our state to the future our people deserve.

The world is watching. Louisianians are watching.

Let's make them proud.

God Bless You, God Bless America and God Bless the great state of Louisiana.

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