Livingston officials ask Jindal not to veto Juban Crossing money

The fate of state help to finance infrastructure improvements related to the Juban Crossing development is in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s hands after legislators overwhelmingly approved the plan.

And Livingston Parish officials put on a full court press Thursday for Jindal to approve the funding plan, which he vetoed last year, saying it would divert dollars from state government.

There’s “a ray of hope” for success as the administration opened the door for discussion, plan sponsor state Sen. Dale Erdey said Thursday.

Juban Crossing development plans call for stores, hotels, restaurants, a theater, two apartment complexes and about 500 homes.

Senate Bill 50 would create the Juban Crossing Economic Development District Fund into which 1 percent of the state’s 4 percent sales tax generated on retail sales in the district would be deposited. A maximum of $45 million could flow into the fund.

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

In a state Senate floor speech, Erdey made the case for state aid to help “a home grown” development to be located on a 470-acre tract just north of Interstate 12 in Denham Spring. He then said he “humbly asks” the governor to sign the legislation, Senate Bill 50, which will help bring the mixed-use development with 2,500 new jobs and economic development opportunity to Livingston Parish.

Also Thursday, Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks and Economic Development Council President Randy Rogers urged the governor to sign the legislation or let it become law without his signature.

“Livingston Parish has supported the governor, and now we need his support,” said Ricks.

Rogers said the project will mean new sales tax dollars for the state and parish.

“It doesn’t take existing money from the budget,” he said.

Livingston Parish Sheriff Jason Ard said the project will generate sorely need tax dollars for his office’s operations.

“We’ll have the funds for more personnel,” he said. “It makes for a safer place to live, work and raise a family.”

Later Thursday, Jindal’s press secretary, Sean Lansing, said, “we are reviewing this legislation.”

Local government has committed 2 percent of the local sales tax collected from the Juban Crossing development for the purpose.

The arrangement is what is called Tax Incremental Financing, which allows use of local and state sales taxes to finance private economic development.

After the legislation passed, Erdey said Jindal’s office suggested that he meet with state Department of Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret, “who has a problem with retail TIFs ... We had a long discussion. It was encouraging,” he said.

Moret wanted to look further at a study by economist Jim Richardson to determine the project’s potential state financial benefits, Erdey said.

“We do a lot of incentives helping business,” Erdey said, adding that the state commitment to Nucor in St. James Parish amounts to $200,000 per job created and the commitment for IBM in Baton Rouge equates to $98,000 per job created.

The state investment in Juban Crossing would equate to $18,000 per job created, he said.

In addition, it would be helping a “home grown” business developer.