Juban Crossing aid clears Senate

The Louisiana Senate on Monday advanced legislation that would provide state help to finance infrastructure improvements related to the planned Juban Crossing development.

The Senate voted 34-2 for measure sponsored by state Sen. Dale Erdey, R-Livingston. Senate Bill 50 now heads to the Louisiana House for debate.

Juban Crossing is a 470-acre planned mix use development to be located just north of Interstate 12 at Juban Road in Denham Springs.

The legislation 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 go into the fund.

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

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

“We are commissioned to do economic development and provide economic opportunities for the people in our districts,” Erdey said. “All we are trying to do is assist the development.”

Erdey said the help is needed because the “bond market went sour on these type of developments.”

State Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, tried unsuccessfully to reduce the state commitment to $25 million and stop the funds from being used for legal fees, architects, engineers and the like.

Erdey said cutting the funding sought would kill the project. He also said that other Tax Incremental Financing projects were allowed expenditures for the professional service fees.

The TIF program allows use of local and state sales taxes to finance private economic development.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, opposed the legislation because it would take money from state coffers.

“It would allow the state of Louisiana to pay $45 million over the next 30 years for this private development,” Donahue said. “We can’t afford to take money away from higher education and health care.”

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

State Sen. Jody Amedee, R-Gonzales, said the Legislature has approved seven or eight TIFS since he’s been in office. “There are a lot of people getting tax breaks that probably don’t deserve them as much as these people do,” he said.

State Sen. Karen Peterson, D-New Orleans, said the sales tax goes toward the project only after the revenues start coming in.

Similar legislation won overwhelming approval in the 2012 legislative session. But it was vetoed by Gov. Bobby Jindal.