ExxonMobil’s decision to withdraw its pending ITEP requests Tuesday drew applause from community group Together Baton Rouge, which has led the charge against the applications, saying they fail to meet local standards set by the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board and Metro Council.
This morning, though, the group—a frequent ITEP critic—said it will hold a press conference this afternoon to address Exxon’s withdrawn requests as well recognize the company’s importance to the city.
“Together Baton Rouge will recognize the vital role ExxonMobil plays in the economy and community of Baton Rouge and propose a path for industry, business and civic leaders to work together to strengthen economic development in our community in the future,” the group says in a release.
Exxon, in announcing its decision to withdraw the requests, called into question future growth opportunities in Baton Rouge, citing the “local uncertainty” surrounding the Industrial Tax Exemption Program.
The school board recently rejected Exxon’s two pending ITEP requests, and the Metro Council was scheduled to vote on them today. The requests did not meet local standards, TBR says, in which exemptions for already-completed work do not qualify.
Exxon, however, criticized the “inconsistent treatment from one company to another, a lack of predictability and confusion among local elected officials, who are inundated with misinformation from activist groups.”
Another company, Georgia Pacific, quietly had a similar ITEP request approved in December, despite the new rules and with no opposition.
Business and industry groups swiftly responded to Exxon’s announcement Tuesday, defending the company and raising alarm over the recent ITEP controversy. They included the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, Louisiana Chemical Association and Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association.
“When one of the state’s largest employers is negatively impacted by our anti-business culture, all of Louisiana loses,” LMOGA President Tyler Gray said in a statement. “If our state maintains the reputation of being an unpredictable location for investment, Louisiana will continue to fall behind our Gulf Coast neighbors.”
The Governor’s Office in a statement noted the state Board of Commerce & Industry, which includes a governor designee, approved the Exxon ITEP requests back in November. Gov. John Bel Edwards spokesperson Christina Stephens emphasized the governor’s support of Exxon, but also reaffirmed the right of local governments to make ITEP decisions.
“At the same time, we must give local governments an opportunity to have a say in how their tax revenue is collected, which was not the case before the ITEP rules were changed,” she says.
The Together Baton Rouge press conference will start at 3:40 p.m. at City Hall, ahead of the Metro Council meeting scheduled for 4 p.m.