Together Louisiana calls on APSB to reject proposed industrial tax cuts

Halen Doughty
Concerned citizens held a press conference outside the Ascension Parish Library last night to show disapproval of corporate tax breaks.

Teachers and community leaders are calling on the Ascension Parish School Board to reject a proposed tax break for existing companies within the parish. The School Board is expected to vote today on the plan from Ascension Economic Development because schools would take a financial hit under the proposal.

Together Louisiana says the industrial exemptions cost the parish nearly $140 million in lost tax revenues in 2017. That's 110 percent of the total property tax revenue collected in 2016. According to their report, Ascension Parish schools lost more than $79 million on exemptions in 2017.

Randy Clement with Together Louisiana said since 1988 Ascension Parish has lost $1 billion in revenue from the Industrial Tax Exemption Program. He called it a moral issue because for every job that's been created since the ITEP started, the companies received $4 million in tax breaks for every job created.

"The chemical plants are good for our area, but we need to make sure that they understand that they have to be accountable," Clement said.  

Clement noted elected officials continue to ask residents to support a higher sales tax, while at the same time giving tax cuts to businesses.

Together Louisiana raised concerns there are no accountability measures in the proposal, so constituents would have no way of knowing where the saved dollars would go. Darlene White has worked at Ascension Head Start in Donaldsonville for 27 years. As a teacher, she is held accountable for her work. Together Louisiana wants the same for community leaders.

"I do my part. It's time for my elected officials to do their part," White said.

Angela Verscher is also an educator in Ascension Parish with decades of experience in the classroom. She adds she has ties to the plants with family members working in the industry. But she says this proposal does not hold industry accountable in how dollars saved through the exemptions would be spent.

"It's not fair. In fact, it's hypocritical for the school board to hold me accountable and to not hold the industry as accountable with our taxpayer dollars," Verscher said.

George Armstrong with Together Louisiana said they're asking for transparency in which companies would receive the tax breaks and how those dollars would be reinvested into the community, not back into the company itself.

"Who is getting the money, and why are they getting it? We need money for our schools," Armstrong said.

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