One of the major complaints against the federal government by state officials has been the mandate of programs which impose additional cost without say or input. It is sad to say this is exactly what the state has been doing for decades to local government under the Louisiana industrial tax exemption program. The tax exemptions were provided without any input from the local governing body. It is reported that local government will lose $16.7 billion in property taxes over the next ten years.

John Bel Edwards is the first governor willing to bring this unfair practice to an end. Previously, the Board of Commerce and Industry appointed by the governor has simply rubber-stamped tax exemptions without real details on how this exemption will create any new and permanent jobs.

So you can understand the magnitude of the amount of money, there are presently 214,553 property taxpayers in East Baton Rouge Parish. We pay almost $447 million in property taxes. Without changes in the program, the parish will lose $664 million over the next ten years.

Louisiana has the most generous program in the South. Most programs do not allow the abatement of taxes normally going to schools, and most programs require the local governing authorities to approve such tax breaks.

Stephen Waguespack of LABI says that Governor Edwards’ action “guts” the program. He says we need this program to compete with Texas. The Texas program requires all governmental jurisdictions to approve the abatement of taxes and no abatement applies to school taxing districts. I would suggest that the changes in the program will mean the unbridled corporate giveaway will cease and each project will have to truly justify its benefits to the public and local elected officials. Is it not true, that governing decisions are best made closest to the people?

Up until today, no governor has been willing to reform this broken system. John Bel Edwards has done the right thing for the state and its taxpayers.

Larry Bankston

attorney

Baton Rouge