‘Business Report’ Publisher: Governor’s ITEP change helps Texas

Rolfe McCollister St. George

“In my 40 years, this is the best economic development move I have ever seen by any Louisiana governor—for the state of Texas.”

—Economist Loren Scott on the current state of ITEP

Changes made to Louisiana’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program some two-plus years ago by Gov. John Bel Edwards—giving parish governments a say on exempting local property tax dollars—have not only led to confusion and inconsistency, but has also proved to be a win for the economic development efforts of … Texas.

Sparked by the recent decision of the East Baton Rouge Parish Public School Board to reject two ITEP requests from ExxonMobil, Publisher Rolfe McCollister, in his latest column, expresses concern that not only will future economic development efforts be hampered but also that the community lacks an appreciation for what Exxon means to the Baton Rouge economy.

What business and industry need most, argues McCollister, is the consistent application of rules. And that can’t happen when three separate locally-elected political bodies all get a say in ITEP decisions.

Reaction to the school board’s decision was immediate: left-leaning Together Baton Rouge celebrated, industry officials fretted and local ExxonMobil executives issued a statement saying they would re-evaluate future investment decisions in the region.

McCollister goes on to list the benefits of ExxonMobil being in the Baton Rouge community, including the fact it’s the largest taxpayer in the parish as well as the top provider of jobs and philanthropy.

This drama was playing out at the same time that Edwards was officially kicking off his re-election campaign. McCollister suggests what the governor has done to the long-standing—and important—ITEP program will be an issue on the campaign trail. He then calls on the GOP-controlled Legislature to show some courage and fix the program.

Until then we live with Gov. Edwards’ “Texas Plan” that was evident in a post by Baton Rouge ex-pat Branon Pesnell, who now does real estate in Houston: “I am one of the 55,000 who moved out of the state (2016-2018) partly because of this type of short-sighted thinking. Decisions like this will have long-term impact on the Louisiana’s ability to recruit and keep business. The door is open in Texas, come on in!”

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