BATON ROUGE – Today, Governor John Bel Edwards gave the keynote address at the annual meeting of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI). Gov. Edwards discussed the current state of Louisiana’s finances, as well as the topics he discussed with President Barack Obama upon his arrival in Louisiana on Wednesday evening.
“Anytime the President of the United States, in either party, comes to your state, it is exciting,” said Gov. Edwards. “I am committed to bringing our federal tax dollars back to Louisiana to help our people, and I am grateful to the President for letting me discuss some of our most pressing needs with him during his visit. I am looking forward to partnering with the federal government, as well as the business leaders in our state, to address the serious challenges we face. From a budget crisis to crumbling infrastructure, we will get the job done right.”
Upon the President’s arrival in Baton Rouge, he and Gov. Edwards had the opportunity to meet privately. During the meeting, Gov. Edwards asked the President for assistance from the federal government with Louisiana’s expansion of Medicaid, financial support to address the growing transportation backlog both in rail and interstate travel, and CMS disallowances for which Louisiana is seeking assistance.
The Governor specifically requested $100 million in federal funds through the Nationally Significant Highway and Freight Projects Discretionary Program this year to improve capacity along a stretch of I-10 from I-49 to the Atchafalaya Basin. These federal funds would make up 60 percent of the cost to rebuild and widen this part of I-10, allowing this project to go to construction this year. Those federal funds would also, in turn, allow the state to use currently set-aside state DOTD dollars to fund:
$30 million for the environmental study for the entire rail corridor connecting Baton Rouge and New Orleans;
$10 million to design the I-10/Loyola interchange leading to the New Orleans airport terminal being built; and
Another $20 million to construct a relocated Washington Street exit on I-110 in Baton Rouge.
By Thursday morning, Gov. Edwards already received calls from the President’s staff on these requests and is scheduled to meet with officials from the U.S. Department of Transportation in Washington next week.