Group outlines state’s Reverse Robinhood Index
Cameron and Calcasieu parishes are among the top 10 in Louisiana whose residents would benefit from returning Industrial Tax Exempt Program properties to the tax rolls at the end of their 10-year term, according to a new study.
Released by the Baton Rouge-based nonprofit Together Louisiana, the “Louisiana Reverse Robinhood Index” ranks Cameron Parish first, with millage rates being reduced from 148 mills to 5 mills. Calcasieu Parish ranks ninth, with rates being reduced from 108 mills to 20 mills.
The study is based on the assumption that the additional tax revenue would result in a default “rollback” of taxing bodies’ property taxes as outlined under state law. The amounts are calculated over time as the properties come on the tax rolls.
For Cameron Parish, the rollback would result in an average savings of $1,841 for homeowners and $2,952 for business owners. Homeowners in Calcasieu Parish would save $515, while business owners would save $1,461.
The Reverse Robinhood Index, a figure based on the Louisiana Tax Commission’s 2018 Annual Report, quantifies potential millage savings that could be returned to taxpayers if ITEP beneficiaries are not granted extended terms beyond the original 10-year limit. The resulting difference is a Reverse Robinhood Millage, or an aggregate figure as if all properties were to return to the rolls the same year.
Quentin Anderson, communications director for the Southern Institute for Public Institute for Public Life, said the study is not an attempt to eradicate Louisiana’s ITEP program. Instead, it seeks to shed light on the “highway robbery” occurring in some parishes in the state, he said.
“What we want folks to understand is the areas you represent are in some cases being robbed,” Anderson said. “Sometimes it’s not legal highway robbery, but it’s happening in broad daylight.”
The data represented in the index spans a range of reversals, with some parishes seeing extreme differences and others only modest changes. The effects in communities with the highest disparities can be seen in a lack of public funding for basic necessities, such as infrastructure, schools and housing, Anderson said.
“Our report shows in some parishes that balance is overwhelmingly out of whack in favor of industry against these communities having the resources they need,” he said. “You can drive through and see the lack of public resources, and some are getting millions and billions in tax breaks.”
Anderson said the study’s developers are pushing for a “sensible incentive program that fairly balances the need of each individual parish and municipality.”
“We understand incentives work, but there’s a difference in bending over backwards and incentive,” he said. “If we’re more strict and more sensitive to local concerns, we think we can really strike that fair balance.”
The index, Anderson said, was created to end blanket approval of ITEP applications, especially for expansions and capital gain projects that do not produce new jobs or additional long-term revenue for communities.
“We want to make sure it’s strictly for things that bring new business and new jobs,” he said.
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