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Folgers plant at 5500 Chef Menteur Highway in New Orleans, La. Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020.

Many think Louisiana and New Orleans economies need to diversify their job markets beyond hospitality jobs, especially since Gov. John Bel Edwards and Mayor LaToya Cantrell closed so many.

Fossil fuels’ changing economics is also a wake-up call. The state, and Louisiana’s cities and parishes, should be attracting a new generation of jobs for its constituents.

None of the elected officials seem concerned about job markets. They see their role as beggars of the federal government.

Now that Edwards, Cantrell and the New Orleans City Council have the president they supported and their Democratic congressman in a big-shot White House job, they expect the city’s budget woes to disappear.

Cha-ching! New Orleans’ $110 million budget hole … poof! A $50 million loan, poof, let the next fools figure out how to pay it back.

Greater expectations would be for them to recruit businesses to locate or expand here, hiring locals forced into unemployment. But that’s not the strategy of Edwards, the City Council or Cantrell.

Idiotic adoption of new industrial tax exemption policies has confused, complicated, and discouraged prospective manufacturers from considering or locating in the Crescent City. Now New Orleans leaders have taken in their sights one of the few major plants still within city limits, Folgers Coffee Co., which produces something the world needs during a pandemic.

There isn’t a pro-business member among all of the city’s politicians. There’s no way to expect them to understand or have an interest in attracting or sustaining businesses. When they need budget funding, instead of growing businesses and jobs, they beg or borrow. That’s the Democratic way.

In 1936, the Industrial Ad Valorem Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) was created as an economic development tool to attract industry investments and expansions to Louisiana. It became part of the 1974 Louisiana Constitution.

Manufacturers committed to bringing new capital to the communities where they operated in exchange for a limited property tax exemption, usually 5 years with a potential 5-year renewal. At the end of 10 years, the property is added to the tax rolls.

After 80 successful years, Edwards changed ITEP in 2016 by executive order. The Legislature allowed Edwards to change the state constitution through executive orders without challenging him. I’ll never understand that.

ITEP encourages continued investment in industrial properties so that their value will steadily grow over time rather than depreciate. LSU professor emeritus Loren Scott documented that the communities with the most ITEP exemptions receive the highest amount of property taxes. In the top six ITEP parishes, businesses paid between 59% and 86% of all property taxes.

Six of the top ITEP parishes are ranked in the top 25% in teacher pay.

Edwards cut the exemption to 80%, required applicants to contract with the state for job creation and retention, and gave local government entities a say in the approval process.

Enter the City of New Orleans' eighth largest property taxpayer, Folgers Coffee, applying for ITEP.

An anti-business, nonprofit activist group opposes ITEPs all over the state. Ironically, Together Louisiana is a group that pays no property taxes on its assets and is made up mostly of church groups that also pay no property taxes.

The opponents dramatically inflated and promoted false figures through news conferences and presentations about Folgers.

The Orleans Parish School Board rejected all the Folger tax break applications and the City Council rejected some and is set to kill the rest.

Former legislator and current council member Helena Moreno used that inaccurate, inflated data to write the state Board of Commerce and Industry asking them to deny the Folgers Coffee applications even before the City Council voted. She wrote them as vice president of the New Orleans City Council.

The protocol doesn’t bother Moreno since she led the council into adopting local rules for ITEP which neither the state constitution, state statutes, nor even Edwards’ executive orders allow. In those rules, she establishes an illegal local minimum wage of $18 an hour. State law in Louisiana prohibits local governments from establishing a minimum wage different from the state.

But really, who cares about the law? Not Moreno.

No manufacturers are coming to the City that Care Forgot after watching the way Folgers Coffee is being treated. Folgers signed a cooperative endeavor agreement with the state Department of Economic Development to consolidate company operations from around the country into its New Orleans headquarters — jobs Louisiana and the city desperately need and want.

That was 10 years ago under a Republican governor, a month or two before Moreno was elected to the state House. Either she doesn’t do her homework to find out how New Orleans got the Folgers headquarters or as a typical local politician who doesn’t support business, she doesn’t care.

Email Garey Forster at Garey.Forster@gmail.com.

Our Views: Taxpayer cash buys some jobs, but they often do not last


Garey Forster is former chairman of the Labor and Industry Committee in the Louisiana House of Representatives and a former Louisiana Secretary of Labor. His column runs weekly. Email him at Garey.Forster@gmail.com.