Juban Crossing bill advances

A bill that would establish special state funding to pay for infrastructure improvements at the proposed Juban Crossing mixed-use development in Livingston Parish passed a key test Monday.

Senate Bill 50 passed out of the Senate Finance Committee on a 7-3 vote. It heads to the state Senate floor for debate.

The measure would create a funding stream for public improvements associated with the 470-acre development just north of Interstate 12 at Juban Road in Denham Springs.

SB50 sponsor, Dale Erdey, R-Livingston, said the idea is to create the Juban Crossing Economic Development District as a special pot of money in the state treasury funded by sales taxes collected within the district.

The money would be used to pay off bonds — government borrowing — for roads, site preparation and other infrastructure projects.

Erdey said the fund was needed as the bond market has gone “completely sour.

“Livingston Parish doesn’t have the Mississippi River or ports or big industry,” Erdey said. “But it does have Interstate 12. We need creative ways to promote economic development.”

He said the fund and the development are especially timely in a growing parish.

“With all of our growth, we should be able to repay these bonds,” he said.

Juban Crossing is intended to be a mixture of four hotels, housing units, retail shops, theaters and office space.

Similar legislation won overwhelming approval during the 2012 legislative session, but it was vetoed by Gov. Bobby Jindal, who said it would divert dollars from state government.

Last year, Erdey blamed the veto partially on his no votes on the governor’s two key bills to overhaul public schools.

He also has defended his bill in the past by making the argument that his bill only affects future taxes. The legislation would not take away sales tax dollars currently going to the state he’s said.

On Monday, Erdey again defended his bill.

“This 470-acre tract right now is noting but dirt. We’re collecting no sales tax on it now,” Erdey said. “What’s 100 percent of zero. That’s what we’re collecting right now.”

He added that the development will create an estimated 1,000 construction jobs and 2,500 permanent jobs.