The same story, just a different year played out yet again for Louisiana lawmakers as the 2018 special session drew to a close with little progress made to fill a looming state budget deficit. An additional special session is rumored to happen in early May, forcing the conversation of tax hikes and budget cuts to be front and center once again. We see time and again that many of the proposed ?solutions’ drafted by lawmakers are at the expense of businesses and taxpayers in an effort to build new revenue for the state. Tax is confusing enough without new proposed solutions made every day. Many have questions like ‘where’s my refund‘ and how to get one when they’ve paid too much, and wondering how to file an extension, let alone focus on solutions!

Rocky Rockett is the executive director of the Greater Bossier Economic Development Foundation

If our state has been consistent in one thing, it is that it embraces chaos at the expense of building prosperity and fiscal shortfalls have become the new normal. A state government that has a history of operating this way has the ability to create an unattractive business climate from an economic development viewpoint. The constant budget woes and lack of collaboration at the state level damages our competitive advantage and labels our state as unstable and not invested in planning for the future.

During the special session, much conversation was had over cutting crucial funds to state economic development incentive programs as a way to alleviate the budget strain. One example was proposed in HB 16 by Rep. Leger which would have decreased funding for the state’s Quality Jobs program. This incentive provides rebates to companies on a portion of their payroll for new direct, high-wage jobs for a limited time period.

Proposed legislation such as HB 16 makes our state less attractive for companies seeking to expand operations. Thanks to recent developements in business-focused software, it is becoming easier and easier for companies to move their operations to other regions. For example Cloudpay makes it possible for payroll to be administered remotely, so a change in location would not be particularly disruptive. Therefore, the state should be making sure they remain attractive to business owners who could easily go elsewhere. In comes The Quality Jobs incentive which not only provides opportunity for business expansion and incentive to add high-wage jobs, it also offers accountability through the quantifiable metric for measuring economic development impact. This incentive is especially important to protect at a time when fiscal transparency is being demanded. Additionally, the constant changes in business tax rates and economic incentive programs in order to decrease budget gaps have created uncertainty for prospects and stalls business expansion efforts. As a result, the industry is left with confusion and scrambling to find an exact ROI for doing business here. For some businesses, when it comes to filing their business activity statement (BAS), they are confused and don’t know how to go about it. This is where they would utilize such resources as GeekBooks, but not all businesses know that this is a possibility.

Forward-thinking, proactive leaders plan and build for the future. The instability of our state budget has left our leadership stuck in a fiscal hole for far too long and unable to build policy that will enhance the future. This pattern has led to reactive governing at the expense of education, workforce, and health care as funding is consistently decreased. No matter how many legislative special sessions are called, real change isn’t in our grasp until real budget reform (by way of a Constitutional Convention) takes place.

Despite the state budget woes, Bossier has seen consistent progress due to the collaboration between the parish and city. Bossier is known for its positive business environment, willingness to partner for prosperity, and its innovative approach to planning for the future. However, state policy can harm our way of doing business and can affect our local municipality’s bottom line. With much prosperity and momentum stemming from our region, there is also much at stake. The Greater Bossier Economic Development Foundation (GBEDF) is tuned in on the ongoing legislative proposals and their possible effects on our investor businesses. We remain committed to embracing policy that supports a healthy business climate for Bossier.