The true cost of tax breaks

The true cost of tax breaks

Cameron LNG, a liquefied natural gas facility in the southwest corner of Louisiana, received $3.1 billion in property tax exemptions through the Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) from 2003 to 2017. Supporters justified this lucrative tax break in part by arguing that it would create jobs for Louisiana residents. In 2017, The Advocate reported that each job created by Cameron LNG was equal to $13.7 million in lost revenue. Now it turns out that a lot of the project’s temporary construction jobs went to guest workers, imported as part of a scheme that involved Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and his brother. Bryn Stole and John Simerman have the scoop in The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate

The documents show that the companies manipulated the guest-worker visa program in a plan (Landry business partner Marco) Pesquera says was predicated on not hiring American welders or pipe fitters. Their product was skilled Mexican labor, federally approved. Their profit derived from the savings the industrial contractors stood to reap by paying far less for Mexican welders than they would have had to pay Americans. Another benefit: The Mexican workers were tied to the job under H-2B visa rules, meaning they could not quit for a better deal. Pesquera pegged the group’s expected profits from the nine-month work contract at several million dollars.


Former Senate president: Stop politicizing REC
The Revenue Estimating Conference was created more than three decades ago in an effort to take the politics out of revenue forecasting. This has not been the case over the past two fiscal years as Republicans have pushed back on the forecasts prepared by economists, which throws a wrench in the governor’s and Legislature’s ability to make investments in state government, despite the money existing to do so. Former Louisiana Senate President Randy Ewing, writing in the News Star, says it’s time to stop:  

Recently, the legislative members of the conference and the economist rejected the recommendations of the experts and sought to consider arbitrary information. This allows for political rather than financial influences and will lead to instability in the budget. The people of the state depend on services that include the popular college scholarship program TOPS, LaChips, healthcare, education and public safety. We deserve to know that the money will be available to support these uses. Failure by the Revenue Estimating Conference to function causes uncertainty and frustration. By a vote of the people, a sound, workable system of managing Louisiana’s fiscal policy is in place. This successful and time-honored process should not be subrogated to support the politics of the moment or a special agenda.


Limited access to early voting in Lafayette
If you want to vote early in Lafayette, you have one option: the third floor of the Parish Courthouse Annex downtown, a facility that the League of Women Voters argues is crowded and offers inadequate parking and poor handicap accessibility. The League is calling upon the Lafayette Parish Council to make it easier for Lafayette’s residents to vote outside of election day. Kathleen Schott Espinoza of the League makes the case in the Advocate

Democracy succeeds or fails on the ability of the electorate to actively participate in the election process. Making it easier for people to vote provides an effective path forward for increasing voter participation. As a community, we should not underestimate the important responsibility of the Lafayette Parish Council to facilitate fair and accessible elections for the people of Lafayette Parish. The single, small, third-floor site is no longer viable.


SNAP once kept legislators from going hungry
President Donald Trump is proposing a $15 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, claiming that fewer people need federal food assistance because of the economy’s continued growth. But America’s families still need a strong food assistance program to keep nutritious food available when individual economic circumstances change and during larger economic downturns. As nine lawmakers who formerly received SNAP argue in a letter opposing the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to the program, SNAP is vital to helping families weather economic troubles and to supporting the children who grow into our nation’s leaders. Susan Cornwell reports for Reuters

Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi said he was a toddler when his parents, immigrants from India, received food stamps for a couple of years in the 1970s. “My parents don’t like to talk about it,” he said. Krishnamoorthi’s father was an engineering student in New York, whose job as a teaching assistant did not pay much. When that was suspended, “things were really rough” for them, he said.


Number of the Day
88,000 – The number of people with disabilities who would lose access to housing assistance under President Trump’s budget proposal. (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)