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|Jindal outlines priorities at Monroe chamber banquet|
In his first speech outside the capital city since taking office earlier this week, Gov. Bobby Jindal returned to a region of the state that played a role in him being elected in the primary election last fall.
Jindal told a large crowd Thursday night at the Monroe Chamber of Commerce's annual banquet that his presence in Monroe showed his commitment to the region – a commitment, he said, that would not diminish.
The chamber banquet was held at the Monroe Civic Center. At least one estimate said the attendance topped 900 guests.
"This is the first speech I'll be giving as your newly inaugurated governor and it's a privilege to give it in Monroe," Jindal said.
Jindal, a Republican, outlined his administration's immediate plans, including pushing through a comprehensive ethics reform package during a special session of the Legislature in February. The special session is expected to convene Feb. 10.
Jindal also surprised those in attendance when he announced he would call a second special session to focus on tax reform. That special session is expected to convene in March, or just prior to the Regular Session of the Legislature.
Concerning the tax reform session, Jindal said he will "speed up" the phase-out of some corporate taxes, including the state's franchise tax.
"The very first thing we must do…is show the country we are serious about changing the way we do business in America," Jindal said. "Let the country take note."
Jindal said he believed Louisiana's tax structure is one of the chief reasons new industry hesitated to locate in the state, while existing businesses are leaving Louisiana because of it.
Jindal singled out the sales and property taxes on manufacturing equipment as one tax businesses cite as cost-prohibitive to locating in the state or expanding existing businesses here.
"The reality is, if we had gotten rid of these taxes…you wouldn't have seen one of these studies about whether to stay or go," Jindal said. "The decision would be easy."
Jindal also called the state's business taxation "the best gift Louisiana could give to Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas as they compete against us."
Jindal outlined his ethics reform package, calling for transparency in government agencies as well as from elected officials.
Under the plan Jindal will propose in the Feb. 10 special session, all elected officials and cabinet appointees would be required to reveal all sources of income in regular filings throughout the year.
Jindal also said he would work to close the more than 100 exceptions to House and Senate ethics rules.
Jindal cited Louisiana's track record on ethics as one reason hurricane aid has not flowed as freely as it could have.
"The President of the United States asked me this question: 'How do we know the money is going to get where it is supposed to go?'" Jindal said.
Jindal promised action and an end to government studies, noting such studies and talk are one of the reasons Louisiana is the butt of political jokes.
"The eyes of the world are truly upon us," Jindal said. "The jokes aren't funny anymore."