Quinn Welsch

editor@thewestsidejournal.com

WAGUESPACK

How long can Louisiana last on festivals, food and culture

That is the question Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) President Stephen Waguespack asked an audience at the West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce on March 29.

For years, people have been told that Louisiana is only good for culture, he said.

“I think it’s time for people to say ‘that’s a lie.’”

If the state is going to grow economically, it needs to start with its people, he said. Waguespack brought this message to the West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce on March 29 in a round of visits to Louisiana chambers in advance of the 2017 legislative session.

“We are only as effective as our chambers on the ground,” Waguespack said.

He laid out four points to help the state meet its legislative goals in the upcoming session: 1) fiscal reform, 2) criminal justice reform, 3) litigation reform and 4) infrastructure.

Fiscal reform

Waguespack took aim at the Gross Receipt Tax, a looming proposal which he said is not “favorably received.” The tax proposal would charge a company the first dollar of receipts regardless of profit, he said.

“While $1 million might come in the door, it might cost $999,999,” he said.

Louisiana, which is characterized as an oil, chemical and gas economy, is more of a service-based economy that supplies the petrochemical industry, he said. Such a tax would harm small and medium sized companies the most, he said.

Criminal justice reform

Waguespack also appeared to favor some criminal justice reform in the Legislature that might increase the number of inmates in the Department of Correction’s transitional work programs. He added that the state could also improve on those programs.

“You give me someone who can read, write and obtain soft skills, I can get them a job,” he said.

Litigation reform

The Legislature should also focus on litigation reform, he said. Louisiana was ranked 37th for best places to do business by Chief Executive magazine, partially due to its “litigious” environment.

That environment sets a dangerous precedence for business, according to Waguespack.

Infrastructure

“We need the Governor and his administration to come out and clearly say how much money they are looking for,” Waguespack said, regarding the state’s infrastructure deficit. “People have lost faith. I don’t think there’s an issue that better shows a lack of trust in government.”

Waguespack said he is hopeful about the future, though. The new administration in Washington D.C. is evidence that people want something different, he said.

“The people in the Midwest thought or voted in a certain way,” he said, referring to the Presidential Election. “They got tired of seeing their towns sink. They said we’re going to vote for the most different thing… I think that’s a template here.”

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