Landry, not the education governor

Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry signed an executive order on Feb. 21 removing school boards’ veto power over corporate property tax breaks that take money away from schools. It also did away with a requirement that projects granted the tax breaks create jobs and retain jobs.
Now, companies that apply for Louisiana’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program, which can grant property tax breaks of 80% over 10 years, will go to a local industrial board, then a state industrial board, for approval. If the local and state boards disagree on whether to grant a tax break, the governor will be the tiebreaker.
The order nullified John Bel Edwards’ 2016 order allowing schools to have more of a say in approving tax breaks that will reduce their budgets.
Tax abatement programs have long been controversial, and their economic value is at best unclear: Studies show most companies would have made the same location decisions without these taxpayer subsidies. Meanwhile, schools make up the largest cost item in these communities, meaning they suffer most when companies are granted breaks in property taxes.
Since 2000, Louisiana has granted a total of US$35 billion in corporate property tax breaks for 12,590 projects. The breaks are not always unfair because they do create jobs. Still, do companies really need an 80 percent break? Won’t 60 percent do if it means we don’t shortchange our already struggling students?
Former Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the 2016 executive order that gave local taxing bodies – such as school boards, sheriffs and parish or city councils – the ability to vote on their own individual portions of the tax exemptions. Exemptions can still be granted, only the breaks will be smaller than companies are accustom to in Louisiana.
Throughout the U.S., school boards’ power over the tax abatements that affect their budgets vary, and in only a few states, including Georgia, Kansas, Nevada, New Jersey and South Carolina, restrict school boards’ input on tax abatement deals that affect them.
Landry’s recent order added Louisiana to the list.

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Thomas FieldsThomas “Tuffy” Fields is an author and regular contributor to The Gazette. He can …

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