Together Louisiana was quick to criticize legislation filed by Baton Rouge lawmakers, saying it would dramatically scale back local control over Industrial Tax Exemption Program requests that directly affect local property tax revenue.
“This may sound like April Fools’ joke, but it’s not,” said Edgar Cage with Together Louisiana in an email late Monday. “It’s just a couple of really bad bills backed by interests that do not respect basic principles of local democracy and local control.”
The proposed law would create a local three-member subcommittee in each parish that would consider ITEP applications and serve as ad hoc voting members on the state Board of Commerce and Industry when that board considers those tax break projects.
Under the proposal, the parish president, sheriff and school board president would each appoint a non-elected official to the three-member subcommittee that would hold public meetings to review local ITEP requests before voting to approve or reject them.
If the subcommittee gives a thumbs up, the application moves to the state BC&I for final approval. Interestingly enough, if the local group rejects the bid, the application can still go before the 24-member BC&I for a final decision, though the three local subcommittee members get to vote as well.
In that case, if a majority of what amounts to a 27-member voting body approves the measure, the decision of the local subcommittee is overridden.
ITEP applications will still require the governor’s approval as well.
Sponsors of the bills say the goal is to “bring stability and predictability back to ITEP” by streamlining the approval process, which currently requires a vote by the state BC&I, as well as each local taxing entity affected—the parish council, school board and sheriff.
Gov. John Bel Edwards gave local governments a say in granting the exemptions in 2016. But industry leaders have since criticized the local approval process as chaotic and unpredictable.
Together Louisiana, which led the charge for local control, says the proposed legislation would “dramatically dilute local authority over these exemptions.”
“Instead of an elected local body deciding by public vote whether or not to approve an exemption, that local entity would be reduced to having one representative out of 27 people voting on the exemption,” the group says, “the vast majority of whom would not be from the parish impacted by the exemption in question.”
The governor’s office did not return requests for comment by this morning’s deadline.