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Edward Cage, with Together Baton Rouge, speaks in favor of transparency concerning the council’s designee to the Mayor’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program Review committee during the Metro Council meeting, 2017.

Advocate columnist Dan Fagan has sounded an alarm: “John Bel Edwards’ war on industry has cost us 14,000 jobs.”

“The bottom is falling out from under Louisiana’s construction industry,” he explains. Large multinational companies are packing up to leave the state. “14,000 construction jobs that were, are no more.”

The sky is falling. And Fagan knows who’s bringing it down.

It’s Gov. John Bel Edwards and his reforms to the industrial tax exemption program!

Can you imagine requiring that, to receive exemptions from the property taxes every other citizen and business in the state pays without question, industrial corporations should be required to create jobs and undergo a cost-benefit analysis! Who does this governor think he is?

The sky is falling because Together Louisiana, that pesky group of citizen organizations, has the gall — the gall — to insist that exemptions here operate the way they do in every other state in the nation, with the public body whose revenue would be impacted by an exemption deciding whether or not to grant it, not a faraway, unelected board.

That, anyway, is how Fagan accounts for the modest decline in construction employment in the first half of 2019.

LSU economist Loren Scott, arguably the state’s most industry-friendly economist, has a different explanation.

In his most recent “Louisiana Economic Outlook” published in September 2019, Scott explains that construction employment was down temporarily for part of 2019 because of a brief, temporary lull between two major waves of industrial expansions.

Big construction projects by CF Industries, Dow, Methanex, BASF, Genesis Energy, Epic Piping and Pepsi Cola wrapped up, and a new wave of expansions had not yet begun. In the next year, Scott explains, “Big projects by Methanex, Shell, Shintech, and ExxonMobil will provide a major kick to the industrial construction sector,” helping to fuel employment growth of 55,000 jobs in 2020 and 2021.

A section title in Scott’s analysis: “Industrial Construction Boom Ahead.”

Here’s a suggestion for Fagan. If Scott is right and construction employment rebounds with the new wave of industrial capital investments that already is underway, write another column on this topic called “Boy, was I wrong about ITEP reform.”

In that one, you can give long-overdue credit to Edwards and Together Louisiana for finally bringing some sanity and accountability to a corporate welfare program that had been on autopilot for far too long.

Edgar Cage

Together Louisiana

Baton Rouge

Our Views: Tax breaks are a necessary evil to keep ExxonMobil in-state