School Board Budget Committee tables ITEP proposal

Halen Doughty
Together Louisiana spokespersons gathered last week to express their opposition for industrial tax exemptions.

A proposed industrial tax exemption has been tabled for now after it failed to pass in the Ascension Parish School Board Budget Committee. The recommendation by Ascension Economic Development would have given millions in corporate tax exemptions to existing companies in the parish.

Public schools would take the biggest financial hit in the Industrial Tax Exemption Program with $21 million in lost tax revenue, which is why the proposal needed approval from the school board. A 2-2 vote wasn't enough to push the measure out of committee.

Together Louisiana made a strong case at the meeting, presenting a report indicating how much money each job would cost. AED pushed for the tax breaks because the companies would create new jobs in the parish, but opponents say it wasn't enough bang for the buck.

The community activist group issued a report indicating which companies would receive the credits and how many jobs each would create. Excel Fabrication & Construction's $60,159 credit would lead to 10 new jobs. Spectrum Biologies exemption would cost $368,365 and create 30 new jobs. CF Industries credit would cost $6.6 million with 3 jobs created, and Air Products and Chemicals $17.5 million exemption would lead to 7 new jobs. No jobs would be created with Westlake Vinyl's $12.6 million tax credit.

Another meeting of the budget committee is scheduled for October 17. Members will take another look at the ITEP proposal, hopefully with enough members present to avoid a stalemate. Opponents to the measure are pleased there will be more time for discussion on the matter.

"The finance committee decided not to proceed in haste but to deliberate further," said George Armstrong with Together Louisiana.

Together Louisiana is raising awareness about the ITEP while demanding transparency and accountability from elected officials and corporations who receive tax cuts, often at the expense of taxpayers. So many residents turned out at the meeting, speaking times had to be cut short.

"It shows a growing awareness on the part of the citizens of what this program is all about. The level of knowledge is still in its infancy, but it is growing, and people are becoming more aware of the effect," Armstrong said.

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