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Author of LSU Economic Development District says additional taxing may help proposed LSU arena

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BATON ROUGE - Last year, legislators approved a measure to create two economic development districts (EDD) in Baton Rouge in 2023. One surrounds LSU's campus, and the other is at Southern University. 

The EDD expansion law, authored by Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, could end up benefitting the proposed LSU arena. While the arena project will be privately funded by the Tiger Athletic Association, the EDD law allows for sales tax generated within the defined regions of the development district to be directed to area projects.

"It's to help the universities spur economic development projects," Fields said.

LSU's district stretches across the campus. The defined district does not include residential properties, excluding voters and the need for elections to raise the tax. With approval from a five-person board, taxes from businesses within the EDD can be raised up to two percent.

There's concern about publicly generated taxes being directed to private projects, like the proposed TAF arena. Sen. Fields says that's okay under the law. 

"[The money] isn't specifically for any single project," Fields said. "Other college campuses are doing similar EDDs across the country."

The five-person board will be appointed by LSU's president and comprised of two business owners and three members from the campus. They will be in charge of deciding where the sales tax money will go towards. 

Fields says the focus should be on uplifting students at their respective universities. According to our partners at the Acadiana Advocate, with an additional two percent tax on sales and hotels, one of Lafayette's economic development districts generated $417,000 in four months.

"Right now, we're in a pretty good shape with funding to higher education, but that could change, and universities can't raise tuition without legislative approval," Sen. Fields said. "So this is just to give them another tool that they can use if they so desire."

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