A business-friendly proposal to adjust the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program barely advanced out of the House Commerce committee Monday.
Representative Rick Edmonds’ (R-Baton Rouge) measure would limit the local input needed to determine whether a company qualifies for the property tax break.
“We think that probably brings back to our businesses and folks that might be coming to invest in the state of Louisiana, hopefully a little assurance that we are on their side to try and help them bring jobs and resources,” Representative Edmonds told members of the House committee.
A 2016 executive order from Governor John Bel Edwards gave local governments, including school boards, a vote on the property tax exemption, since property taxes help fund parish government budgets.
But Representative Edmonds says the change created too much confusion for businesses. He’s suggesting limiting the local votes needed to three people: the leader of the parish, the sheriff and the school board president.
“They will ultimately make the decision, and all parishes will do it the same way,” he said.
Edmonds says streamlining the process would make it more predictable for companies. Business groups, like the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, agree.
But the governor’s office is fighting the change, saying local input shouldn’t be limited.
Representative Kenny Cox (D-Natchitoches) opposes the move as well.
“Now you take everything and put it in the hands of three people -- I’ve got a problem with that," said Cox, "because sometimes those three people don’t necessarily represent my people.”
Local government’s role in ITEP was challenged earlier this year, when the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board denied an ITEP request from ExxonMobil, sparking concerns from the company, city and state officials about Exxon’s future investments in Louisiana.
The measure passed committee on a vote of 8-7. It now heads to the full House for debate.