New tax exemption process being tested

The American Press

<p class="indent"><span>A</span> major test of the new criteria for granting local industrial property tax exemptions is under way in Baton Rouge. ExxonMobil wants to expand its existing polyolefin plant, a project expected to cost between $500 million and $1 billion.</p><p class="indent">The Louisiana Board of Commerce and Industry has approved the tax break for the expansion that would create 45 new direct jobs, 20 permanent contractor jobs and 600 construction jobs at peak development. That would have been all ExxonMobil needed under previous tax break guidelines, but Gov. John Bel Edwards for the first time has given local governments a voice in the process since it is their taxes that are being exempted.</p><p class="indent">ExxonMobil now needs approval from the East Baton Rouge School Board, the Metro Council and East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid Gautreaux. The Advocate said the tax break in the first year would total $5.7 million. The company said it would pay $6.9 million in property taxes over the life of the 10-year exemption, which is 20 percent of what it would otherwise pay, and $32 million in sales taxes.</p><p class="indent">Previously, industries received what amounted to a 100 percent property tax break over 10 years, but that has been reduced to an 80 percent exemption. Edwards, Baton Rouge Mayor, President Sharon Weston Broome and the Baton Rouge Area Chamber have all endorsed the Exxon request. The local bodies have 60 days — until late October — to act or the exemption would be approved.</p><p class="indent">Together Baton Rouge, a faith-based and community action group, has taken a tough stance on granting local property tax exemptions and hasn’t said whether it supports the request. The Advocate said the company has indicated it might not go forward with the project if the exemption is rejected.</p><p class="indent">The organization has added two new criteria for granting exemptions. It wants to know the amount of property taxes Exxon projects to pay for each of the next 10 years. It also wants to know the value of Exxon’s taxable property, believing it has been under-assessed by the parish tax assessor.</p><p class="indent">Supporters of these property tax exemptions voice some legitimate concern about whether the new process might discourage future industrial development. We hope local governing bodies keep that in mind when deciding whether to approve the exemptions.</p>””INDUSTRY TAX EXEMPTION

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