The Baton Rouge Area Chamber and Together Baton Rouge traded more barbs this week over industrial tax exemptions as the debate on both sides over their value as an economic development tool grew even more heated.
The chamber accused Together Baton Rouge of being anti-manufacturing while Together Baton Rouge questioned whether it's a conflict of interest for BRAC to have taken such forceful positions on the tax exemption issue.
BRAC and Together Baton Rouge have spent months jockeying to convince the public and political leaders of their opposing views on whether industrial tax exemptions create enough jobs to be worth the public subsidies going to corporate manufacturing giants.
Together Baton Rouge has argued that Baton Rouge officials need to be more stringent in examining whether there's a better use for the tax dollars local governments are forgoing, while BRAC has asserted that the property tax exemptions are key to economic development and jobs.
After hearing sharply different opinions over whether industrial tax exemptions are ripping …
Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome issued an executive order this week creating a committee that will review future applications for the industrial tax exemptions in Baton Rouge. The chamber applauded that move and released a white paper the next day arguing that 9,000 construction jobs hang in the balance during a standstill in 47 pending ITEP approvals.
But Together Baton Rouge says 38 of those 47 projects have passed their construction start dates, underscoring Together Baton Rouge's point that corporations would still invest in new projects without receiving the industrial tax exemptions.
"A public subsidy self-evidently is not necessary to incentivize a project that already has taken place," Together Baton Rouge wrote. "Similarly, the delay or refusal to approve that subsidy self-evidently is not a hindrance to the creation of jobs if those jobs already have been created."
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BRAC's white paper also slammed Together Baton Rouge for "reckless rhetoric," claiming that the faith-based community organizing group's disdain for the tax exemption program hurts the people working in manufacturing and construction jobs that Together Baton Rouge should represent.
"Despite these clear threats to our regional economy and the families that will be negatively impacted by the coming projected unemployment, Together Louisiana continues to purposefully and irresponsibly attack the relevance and importance of manufacturing as a sector and thousands of construction jobs as worthwhile," BRAC wrote in the white paper.
BRAC highlighted a since-deleted Together Baton Rouge Facebook post from when the Metro Council discussed trying to lure Amazon to Baton Rouge.
"Dear Amazon, we’d love for you to come to Baton Rouge! Our schools are mediocre because we gave $1B in tax exemptions to Exxon & the Koch brothers to cut 2000 jobs. Your employees might flood because we made regulations ‘weaker’ after the worst flood in our history. But we’re expert at pretending we’re making the kinds of investments that build a healthy, vibrant, equitable economy. So come, Amazon. Come pretend with us," Together Baton Rouge wrote.
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Together Baton Rouge acknowledged quickly deleting the post because of its harsh tone, saying their analytics showed that it only reached 169 people before it was removed.
But Together Baton Rouge also questioned whether the chamber is capable of giving objective advice to the city-parish about the tax exemption program given that many of BRAC's members — including Exxon, Formosa Plastics and others — have been ITEP recipients.
BRAC receives hundreds of thousands of dollars from the city-parish each year as its economic development arm.