House passes bill that would hide corporate tax break data from public

House lawmakers have voted 59-38 for a bill that would change the public records law to allow the state economic development agency to hide certain corporate tax incentive records from the public. 

HB456, sponsored by Rep. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge, proposes to make an exception to Louisiana’s public records law for certain records under the Louisiana Economic Development tax incentive programs, including the Industrial Tax Exemption Program, Louisiana Quality Jobs Program and Louisiana Enterprise Zone Program, according to Louisiana Illuminator. 

“It is imperative, members, that we do not let this instrument go across to the other side (to the Senate),” Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central, said during floor debate last Thursday.  

Under the state’s economic development programs, companies often enter into contracts with the state to receive millions of dollars in state tax incentives in exchange for a promise to create jobs. Current law allows the public to judge for itself whether that $140 million was a good investment by allowing searches of LED’s records to find out how many jobs each company created and the hourly wages paid to employees.

Edmonds defends his bill as a necessary measure to shield sensitive employee data from identity theft. He says the tax incentive programs are an agreement between LED and a company but not the company’s employees; thus, their personal information should remain confidential. 

No one has disagreed with Edmonds on that point. Instead, those who oppose the bill have said it goes further than concealing employees’ personal information. Additional language in Edmonds’ bill proposes to hide corporate-level data, including the salaries a company pays with the money gained from state tax rebates and other incentives.

The bill was sent to the Senate for consideration. Read the full story.