Capitol Views: House backs bill to expand property tax exemptions; also likes rebates for public schools; will take up budget Thursday

The categories of businesses that can receive property tax exemptions would be broadened by a proposed constitutional amendment that unanimously passed the House today.

In addition to manufacturing enterprises—the only kind of business now eligible for ad valorem tax exemptions from the Board of Commerce and Industry—new types of eligible businesses would be: corporate headquarters, logistics, warehousing, data center, clean technology, destination health care, research and development, renewable energy, digital media and software development, or other business sectors targeted by the secretary of Louisiana Economic Development.

The business investments must be at least $25 million, and the applicant must be invited to participate by the secretary. The participation by parishes would be voluntary.

Speaking for his bill, Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, said that the state’s ad valorem program is dated and doesn’t reflect the needs and opportunities of the modern economy.

—The House also passed a bill today that would grant tax rebates to contributors to public schools, a measure filed in response to legislation granting rebates to contributors to groups providing private school tuition grants to public school students.

House Bill 1106 by Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, passed the House unanimously and heads to the Senate. Capped at $10 million annually, the proposed program would grant a 75% rebate for contributions to a school rate “F,” 50% for a “D” school and 25% for a “C” school.

The donations, which can be used for tutoring, books, technology and Saturday school, would not affect public funding through the Minimum Foundation Program.

—The state operating budget will be the main order of business for the House next Thursday. The first hurdle for HB 1 is the “Geymann rule,” which requires a two-thirds vote to begin debate if the proposed budget contains any one-time money. As it passed the Appropriations Committee, the bill contained $346 million in officially defined one-time money, though most of that comes from sweeping dedicated funds that are filled each year by taxes and fees.

Named for leading fiscal hawk Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, the rule applies only to the House, but it effectively limits the amount of one-time money the Senate can add or add back into the bill.

The appropriations bill got a rocky start this week, when it took two votes to get past the Appropriations Committee, which was unprecedented and perhaps foretells more difficult votes to come.

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