More than 300 officials throughout Louisiana sign letter backing local ITEP control

Baton Rouge economy
ExxonMobil's refinery in Baton Rouge. (Photo by Tim Mueller)

More than 300 local elected officials from throughout Louisiana have signed an open letter to the Legislature, urging lawmakers to support local control of local property tax breaks, backers of a proposed state constitutional amendment say. 

Senate Bill 151 by Sen. Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs, would guarantee the right of local sheriffs, school boards, parishes and municipalities to approve or deny granting tax breaks to manufacturers through the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program. Gov. John Bel Edwards’ executive order currently gives them that right, though a future governor could take it away. 

“For 86 years, Louisiana has been the only state in the nation to grant an unelected, statewide board the authority to exempt industry from paying local property taxes without the approval of local governments,” the letter states. “We ask you to vote in support of Senate Bill 151 to restore our basic right to control our local tax dollars.”

Backers have planned a news conference for noon Tuesday on the state Capitol steps. Capital Region supporters include:

  • Mayor Sharon Weston Broome, East Baton Rouge Parish;
  • President Riley Berthelot Jr., West Baton Rouge Parish;
  • President Major Thibaut, Pointe Coupee Parish;
  • President Kenny Havard, West Feliciana Parish;
  • Mayor Janis Landry, Slaughter;
  • Mayor Edwin Reeves, Plaquemine;
  • Mayor Jonathan Taylor, Livingston;
  • Mayor Rhett Pourciau, Livonia;
  • Mayor Cornell Dukes, New Roads;
  • Mayor David Toups, Addis.

Business groups say the local approval process is too uncertain and encourages companies considering investment in Louisiana to look elsewhere. Local officials say almost all applications have been approved, which shows local control isn’t chasing manufacturers away. 

In its original form, SB151 would have preserved the current approval system. Senators amended the bill to take out the specific rules and include only the local approval requirement, though that version has not yet been put to a vote.

Stephen Waguespack, who leads the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, remains staunchly opposed to the bill. 

“There’s always going to be continuing dialogue with local government, with state government, with economic developers, to do what’s best for the state,” Waguespack said in a recent interview. “That’s been the tradition of the industrial tax exemption since the 1930s.”