ITEP debate advances to House
Sulphur legislator opposes changes; does not agree that centralized review board includes enough local input
The House Commerce Committee voted 8-7 on Monday to advance legislation that would modify Industrial Tax Exemption Program rules, with one Southwest Louisiana lawmaker opposing it.
House Concurrent Resolution 3, by Rep. Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge, moves to the House floor for consideration. It proposes that each parish creates a centralized local review board to review ITEP applications. The board would include the president of the Police Jury or chief elected member of the municipality, the president of the School Board and the sheriff.
Edmonds said the bill is an attempt to “streamline” and “simplify” the current process, giving potential businesses and investors a “uniform experience” across the state. Under the current structure, businesses are “not certain of how they’re treated,” he said, leading to fewer applications filed.
“Even in rejections, there doesn’t seem to be a uniform answer of how it was handled,” Edmonds said.
Edmonds said the legislation would give “a little assurance that we are on their (businesses) side.”
Jim Patterson, vice president of government relations for the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, spoke in support of the bill, saying the ITEP is “very necessary” for the state.
“We are different from so many states already and without an effective tool such as ITEP, we cannot readily compete with other states — especially Texas,” he said.
Parishes that have a high degree of ITEP recipients see weekly wages, sales taxes and property taxes that are higher than the state average, Patterson said.
“Those communities are benefitting tremendously,” he said.
Rep. Stuart Moss, R-Sulphur, opposed the measure, saying it needs a “much bigger scope.”
“I don’t think we have enough representatives with three people; my constituents want a bigger voice,” he said. “This is on the backs of the people of Southwest Louisiana.”
Moss agreed with a suggestion by Rep. Edmond Jordan, D-Baton Rouge, to not have public school funding be a part of the industrial tax exemption.
“Education is what we need to fill these jobs,” Moss said. “We have to have educated people in the workforce to work for the industry.”
‘I don’t think we have enough representatives with three people; my constituents want a bigger voice. This is on the backs of the people of Southwest Louisiana.’
Rep. Stuart Moss