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National, state representatives and economic officials discuss impact on NWLA at Legislative Summit

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National and state representatives joined with economic officials Wednesday to discuss issues that are impacting northwest Louisiana.

The Northwest Louisiana Legislative Summit was held by the Bossier Chamber of Commerce, Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce, Shreveport-Bossier African American Chamber of Commerce, Greater Bossier Economic Development Foundation, and North Louisiana Economic Partnership.

The summit followed a regular legislative session and third special session of the year, the last of which ended in mid-June, to replace more than $1 billion of revenue that would have been lost from sunsetting tax legislation on June 30, 2018.

“It has been a long, exhausting year, and we recognize and appreciate your commitment,” Dana Smeltzer, Bossier Chamber of Commerce chairperson, said to the lawmakers in attendance.

South Bossier native and current Chief of Staff for Gov. John Bel Edwards Mark Cooper said that despite the repeated sessions, cooperation won the day.

“A lot of things were accomplished — reduced the penny sales tax, fully funded TOPS, and stabilized funding for higher education. That’s significant for northwest Louisiana with LSU Shreveport, Southern University of Shreveport, and BPCC,” Cooper said.

Kimberly Lewis Robinson, secretary of Louisiana Department of Revenue, noted that tax legislation has played a vital part in the state’s special sessions. She said that since Gov. Edwards’ term began, there have been seven special sessions and all of them have dealt with financial matters.

“There is no easy way to cut $1.4 billion when there’s only $9.4B to start the conversation and half of it is constitutionally mandated on how it can be spent,” Robinson said.

Cooper also mentioned several local projects the Edwards administration is working on, including the finalizing of management of LSU Health Shreveport, which he said is “close.”

“It’s a priority to keep medical care at that hospital and make that medical school a world leader,” he said.

Cooper also noted that Barksdale Air Force Base is a priority for the governor, singling out the pending construction of an entrance to Barksdale off I-20/220.

“That’s been needed and Sen. Ryan Gatti brought that to the governor’s attention. The governor knows how important Barksdale Air Force Base is as an economic driver and they worked to find ways to fund that interchange.”

He also relayed the governor values the growing tech industry in the area.

“The governor sees (the I-20 cyber corridor from Shreveport-Bossier to Minden) as an opportunity. What California did with Silicon Valley, Louisiana has the chance to do here for cyber,” Cooper said.

The event also featured a national viewpoint with speaker U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson (LA-04). He said Washington has seen success “by an objective measure.” He cited the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act as an example.

“Landmark tax refund. Largest corporate tax reductions in history and landmark regulatory reform. It made it easier for small business owners, entrepreneurs and job creators to do what it is they do so well,” said Johnson. “We unleashed the free market again in a number of ways. The results you see is the economy is moving forward.”

He added that if you speak to business owners, they will say: “The tax reform is great. But regulatory reform is the reason the economy is moving.”

Former Bossier resident Don Pierscn, secretary of Louisiana Economic Development, spoke to a theme of cooperation.

“(LED has) the charge to build a vibrant economy. We do that through the governor’s leadership, resources afforded by legislators, economic partners, area chambers of commerce… And that’s the foundation of the success we’re enjoying. Strong, momentum-building success,” Pierson said. “We can’t manage 64 parishes and expect success. We do this with strong regional partners in our state.”

And former Bossier resident Don Pierscn, secretary of Louisiana Economic Development, spoke to a theme of cooperation that has led to success in the area and state.

“(LED has) the charge to build a vibrant economy. We do that through the governor’s leadership, resources afforded by legislators, economic partners, area chambers of commerce… And that’s the foundation of the success we’re enjoying. Strong, momentum-building success,” Pierson said. “We can’t manage 64 parishes and expect success. We do this with strong regional partners in our state.”

He pointed out that since he took over in January 2016, there have been nearly 100 project wins creating nearly 25,000 jobs. He also said LED has grown current companies to expand jobs by 16,000. All combining to a $26 billion investment in Louisiana.