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Together Louisiana Planning More Activism

Sue Lincoln

Edgar Cage called Thursday’s annual meeting of Together Louisiana to order, and then complimented members for their work.

“There is a shift that has begun because of the work of Together Louisiana and our local organizations at parish levels,” he announced.

The statewide organization of church and community groups has been busy this past year, challenging corporate tax giveaways, especially the Industrial Tax Incentive Program. Cage says they’re expanding that focus in 2018.

“We will examine another model and vision; focus less on corporate subsidies, and more on broad prosperity.”

The left-leaning group had expected the governor to address their convocation, but those plans were trumped by an invite to the White House, extended at the beginning of this week. They did hear from Greg LeRoy of, who said his research shows tax incentives don’t make or break economic development deals.

“Tax incentives almost never make any decisions for companies, because they can’t. They’re too small,” LeRoy explained. “All state and local taxes come to less than two-percent of their cost structure. 98-plus percent of their cost structure – labor, raw materials, logistics, energy – always determines where they expand or relocate.”

LeRoy said, of course, that doesn’t stop state and local governments from dangling the bait of incentives, especially when it comes to mega-deals, like the current chase for Amazon’s second headquarters.

“In the profession, they call that ‘buffalo-hunting’,” he said.

And noting Together Ascension’s recent push to convince their local taxing bodies not to approve four ITEP applications totaling $462-million, yet creating just 32 total jobs, he said that is sadly the rule, rather than the exception.

“The average price tag of these mega-deals is $658,000 per job, and that means it’s a guaranteed loser for taxpayers.”

LeRoy explained the sales and income tax collected over the lifetime of the worker in that new job won’t equal the amount of taxes state and local governments give up in order to create that job. Meanwhile, other residents and existing businesses have to make up for the taxes the new industry is not paying.

“What better could we be doing with the money, that would benefit the whole economy, because it would benefit all employers?” LeRoy asked. “The answer is: don’t neglect your basic public systems -- your public education, your public health, your infrastructure, sewer systems – fundamental things that are necessary for you to attract or retain everyone.”

Together Louisiana meets again in two weeks, with Governor John Bel Edwards.