Lt. Gov. Dardenne discusses tourism, tax reform

By By John Guidroz / American Press

The proposed legislative budget calls

for removing about $10 million of the $23 million allocated for tourism,

making it difficult

for Louisiana to compete with states like Texas and Florida, Lt.

Gov. Jay Dardenne said Thursday.

“That’s obviously an ongoing concern with us because the dollars that we would have available, we would spend on out-of-state

advertising and marketing,” he said at a Republican Women of Southwest Louisiana luncheon. “We’re going to do the best we

possibly can with what we have.”

Dardenne said about $12 million was taken away from tourism in the current state budget. He said tourism is funded by three

one-hundredths of a penny from sales tax, generating about $23 million a year.

Dardenne said the tourism industry could get a higher return from the money. He spoke about an independent study that indicated

Louisiana gets $17 for every dollar spent on tourism.

“My argument is let us take that money

and multiply it,” Dardenne said. “We have so much more to offer than any

state in America,

but we’ve got to get the message out.”

Despite the lost state money, Louisiana has a thriving $10 billion tourism industry, he said. About 25.5 million people visited

the state in 2011, and one out of every 10 residents works in the hospitality industry, Dardenne said.

“It is a huge industry for our state,” he said. “We take for granted people will come here.”

Dardenne also spoke about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposed tax reform, which includes eliminating the individual and corporate

income taxes and raising the 4 percent state sales tax to 5.88 percent. He said some hotel managers and restaurant owners

are worried that a higher sales tax may hurt “convention business in New Orleans” and other areas.

Jindal is also proposing taxing services like haircuts and landscaping. Dardenne said that taxing services like advertising

and ticket prices for concerts could affect the state’s tourism industry.

“We will look carefully at this proposal as it surfaces,” Dardenne said. “There are arguments on both sides, but, as always,

the devil is in the details.”

Dardenne said Louisiana will see a

tremendous economic turnaround in the next five years. He said this is

confirmed with upcoming

economic development projects like IBM, which announced Wednesday

that it will build a facility in Baton Rouge that could

produce 800 jobs.

“You have people making decisions saying this is where I want to be,” Dardenne said.

The luncheon was held at Reeves Uptown Catering.