ITEP out of compliance

ITEP out of compliance

For many decades, Louisiana’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) operated as a rubber-stamp program that provided 10 years of property-tax forgiveness for manufacturing corporations. Gov. John Bel Edwards made historic reforms to the program in 2016 that called for local government input and required companies to create or retain jobs in exchange for their tax break. Five years later, the Board of Commerce and Industry – which oversees the program – started wrestling over whether to penalize companies that fail to create the jobs they promise, or don’t file their annual compliance reports on time. David Jacobs of the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report reports: 

Four noncompliant companies were on today’s agenda, two of which had contracts for the same project. The board opted not to penalize one company, Inferno Manufacturing, for not having its paperwork in on time. They deferred action on another, A.O.U.O.P.S. Inc. of East Carroll Parish, even though the company failed to hit its jobs targets and didn’t show up to explain why. (…) Some speakers argued that if companies can’t abide by the letter of their agreements, they should have to pay their property taxes like any other business that isn’t eligible for ITEP. “If you don’t do what you said you were going to do, you shouldn’t reap the benefit,” says Edgar Cage with Together Louisiana. 

Disclosure: LBP Executive Director Jan Moller is a member of the Board of Commerce & Industry. 

Reject Amendment 2
Louisiana needs a tax system that generates revenue fairly and that provides the state with enough revenue to invest in our people, including quality care and education for our youngest residents and competitive salaries for our public school teachers. But our status quo tax system fails both of these tests: it asks the most of those with the least and it leaves our state government short of the revenue it needs to fully support the schools, hospitals and programs that benefit us all. On November 13, voters will have the opportunity to make their voices heard on this – and several other – important issues. Julie Schwam Harris explains in a letter to The Advocate why voters should reject Amendment 2:

First, it does not permanently fix the main problem that most people agree needs fixing — that Louisiana allows federal income taxes to be deducted from Louisiana state income taxes, causing periodic crises in state revenue. The amendment’s language would allow the Legislature to bring back that widely condemned federal deduction practice anytime. (…) This is a bad amendment masquerading as reform — don’t buy it. The Legislature can do a better job next time by focusing on the real solutions to the real problems for all citizens — not a tax swap for the wealthy.

Read LBP’s in-depth analysis of Amendment 2 and guide to all four constitutional amendments

‘Woefully insufficient’ 
Lake Charles needs federal aid to recover from multiple storms and natural disasters over the past two years. But that aid has been too slow to arrive. Congress finally allocated $600 million for the region as part of a $5 billion package this week, but local leaders say it a “pittance” and “woefully insufficient.” Now the region has tornado damage to add to the list of rebuilding projects. Mike Smith of The Advocate reports:

The Lake Charles area was hit by Hurricane Laura, one of the worst storms in state history, in August 2020. It was followed six weeks later by Hurricane Delta, then a winter storm in February and severe flooding in May. Several thousand people are believed to still be displaced. (…) Businesses and apartment complexes still sit in ruins, while blue tarps on roofs remain a common sight.

In Lake Charles, as in other vulnerable parts of Louisiana, rebuilding after disasters is most difficult for those with the least, and that is too often our Black and Brown communities. Candice Norwood of The 19th reports on the prominent role Black women play in helping communities rebuild:  

One of the most heartbreaking things for one advocate, Andreanecia Morris, is that the same people — not just the same types of people, but the exact same people — continue to be harmed by disasters, whether it’s the COVID-19 pandemic or climate change. “It’s not an accident, not God really trying to see what the people in the river parishes can bear. These are systemic inequities that are rooted in anti-Black, anti-poor, anti-women and anti-children bias,” Morris, the executive director for the fair housing group HousingNOLA, said in a press call. 

College enrollment is plummeting 
The number of students enrolled at two- and four-year colleges and universities plummeted this fall for the second year in a row, according to new data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Undergraduate enrollment fell by nearly 500,000 students, a 3.2% drop that follows a similar drop of 3.4% last year. Elissa Nadworny of NPR has the story

This fall, the drop in undergraduate enrollment is spread across all sectors, but numbers are worse at community colleges, public four-year colleges and private for-profits. … Community colleges, which often enroll more low-income students and students of color, have consistently been the hardest hit. The preliminary fall data show the decline this fall to be 5.6%. That’s not quite as steep as last year: In the fall of 2020, community college enrollment fell by roughly 10% nationally — a loss of over 544,200 students when compared with the fall of 2019. That sharp decline continued last spring.

Number of the Day
2000 – The year that the United States would have eliminated poverty, as measured by the Supplemental Poverty Measure, if the country had not experienced rising inequality since the late 1970s, that is, if the fruits of productivity had continued to be shared more broadly as they were in previous decades. (Source: Economic Policy Institute)