‘Streamlined, flexible, transparent’ ITEP process is in the works

Published 4:52 pm Thursday, June 6, 2024

The state is working to make its Industrial Tax Exempt Program (ITEP) program more attractive by streamlining the process, shortening the timeline between application and final decision.

ITEP is the incentive program for new industries that make qualifying investments. It offers a significant break on property taxes for the first five or 10 years.

So far, Gov. Jeff Landry has eliminated the previous administration’s jobs creation and retention ITEP requirements. He’s also changed the way local governments provide input. Landry left in place the former governor’s reduction of the abatement percentage from 100 percent to 80 percent. Advance notice will no longer be required for companies planning to seek exemption.

Email newsletter signup

“We think this new process could be a bit quicker, which is good for economic projects, and we are very pleased that the state is keeping the exemption level at 80 percent,” said Bryan Beam, Calcasieu Parish administrator. That means local taxing agencies will immediately benefit from the remaining 20 percent for approved applicants.

Now it’s up to the Commerce and Industry Board to hammer out the details, and that could take some time. Tuesday it met to “review and discuss possible new ITEP process and corresponding rule revisions proposed by local industry consulting firms,” according to the agenda.

The goal, according to online documents on the board’s website is to create a “totally new process” that is more streamlined, intuitive, transparent and flexible, one that incorporates — but doesn’t wholly rely on — local input, retains the board’s and governor’s authority, increases competitiveness and better aligns with the Louisiana Tax Commission regulations, according to a draft that members saw for the first time Tuesday.

Sulphur businessman and Commerce and Industry board member Stuart Moss said the board is no where near voting on changes. Tuesday’s meeting was just a first look. He does think it could put Louisiana ahead of Texas for attracting industry. He also thinks a more streamlined tax exemption process could attract not only more oil and gas industry, but also other types of business.

“Mercedes is building a plant in Alabama, why not here,” Stuart said. “Why not a microchip or furniture manufacturer.”

Beam explained how local input could change. Before Landy’s executive order, the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, Sheriff’s Office and the School Board — other areas might have more taxing entities — each considered the merits of an ITEP application. Now, a single committee will provide input. The committee in Calcasieu Parish will likely be made up of representatives from each local taxing agency, the Police Jury president, the School Board superintendent and the sheriff. If the proposed project is within the city limits, the mayor will be included.

“That group meets as one and votes on whether or not they want to support the application or not,” Beam said. In the past, if one of the local governing entities turned something down, that entity did not have to exempt any taxes. The new approach is all or nothing.

In the end, the final decision is up to the Board of Industry and Commerce, which is a 24-member panel of appointees from business groups – and the governor.