Manufacturing corporations will no longer be required to create or retain jobs in order to get lucrative property tax breaks from state government under an executive order issued Wednesday by Gov. Jeff Landry. The governor’s order also strips power from local school boards, sheriffs and parish governments to decide whether corporations should get tax forgiveness through the Industrial Tax Exemption Program. The Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate’s Tyler Bridges reports

Landry’s decision doesn’t make sense to Michael Olivier, a former state economic development director who recently retired as CEO of the Committee of 100 for Economic Development, a Baton Rouge-based group. “I can’t buy that,” Olivier said. “We’re in the business to create jobs.” … “You’re saying that companies which make investments that kill jobs should be rewarded with one of the most attractive tax breaks of its kind in the country,” [Executive Director of the Louisiana Budget Project Jan] Moller said. “That is wrong. If a business wants to buy a robot that can do the job of 50 workers, that should not be rewarded with a tax break.”

Reality check: Property taxes are a critical source of revenue for local governments, and supports everything from parks and libraries to police and public schools. 

Limiting public debate during crime session
Criminal justice advocates are asking a state court to postpone the advancement of four bills that passed out of the the House Administration of Criminal Justice Committee until more public testimony is heard. Committee chair Debbie Villio imposed a three-minute limit for public comments and a two-hour limit for the entire discussion of bills that would dramatically reshape the state’s criminal justice system. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Piper Hutchinson reports

The special session doesn’t have to end until March 5, but leaders have suspended the rules several times in order to expedite hearings on bills rather than letting them lay over for a day between hearings. House Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Matthew Willard of New Orleans and other Democrats have criticized Republicans for fast-tracking legislation that would almost totally reshape Louisiana’s criminal justice system, giving the public limited opportunity for input. … The complainants say they traveled to Baton Rouge to testify, but the committee’s time limits prevented them from speaking. 

Many have questioned whether the wide ranging and expedited nature of committee hearings were intentional tactics by lawmakers to limit debate on controversial bills.

Rejecting summer food aid will just increase hunger
Louisiana’s high poverty rate and susceptibility to natural disasters means the state receives far more benefits from the federal government than it pays. But Gov. Jeff Landry’s administration thinks that self-sufficiency in Louisiana must fall on the shoulders of poor children. A Times Picayune | Baton Rouge Advocate editorial explains how Landry’s decision to reject federal funding to provide extra food assistance to children during summer will do nothing but increase hardship:

The federal aid would go to children living in families at or below 185% of poverty, about 594,000 Louisiana kids, at a cost to the state of less than $6 per enrolled child, according to the Louisiana Illuminator. It would come from the taxes Americans —including Louisianans — have already paid, and that will now go to to feed kids in far-off states but not in Louisiana, where an estimated 1 in 4 kids live in poverty. It’s money that could ease a difficult burden for many families where parents work in low-wage jobs, perhaps more than one, to take care of their kids. It’s money that, research shows, could actually put kids in a better position to grow and learn, and eventually become self-sufficient adults.

Anti-ESG policies hurt state finances
The investment world has been dragged into America’s culture wars because of decisions by some investors to assess a company’s environmental, social and corporate governance decisions. These measurements, better known as ESG policies, have been the target of GOP lawmakers on the federal and state level. Pew’s Liz Farmer explains how attacks on ESG policies could be contrary to lawmakers’ fiduciary duty to their states. 

For example, boycotts that cut business ties with banks that embrace ESG investing practices may limit governments’ underwriting options, leading to less competition and higher borrowing costs for states. In Texas, a top source of new municipal bond sales, five of the municipal banking industry’s largest underwriters left the state after legislators in 2021 prohibited state and local entities from contracting with banks that have divested from oil and gas companies. Research published the following year found that their exit resulted in more than $500 million in higher borrowing costs for local governments in the state over just eight months.

In 2022, the Louisiana State Bond Commission pulled nearly $800 million from the investment firm BlackRock because it had been outspoken about moving away from fossil fuels. The commission then ended its 12-year relationship with the state’s financial adviser after its founder criticized former Treasurer John Schroders’ anti-ESG moves and outlined their negative impacts on state finances. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Julie O’Donoghue spoke with current-Treasurer John Fleming during his successful campaign to replace Schroder on his stance on ESG policies. 

Number of the Day
23% – Percentage of undergraduate students at Louisiana colleges and universities that hail from other states. While the percentage of out-of-state students in Louisiana has increased over the past decade, it is lower than neighboring states, save for Texas. (Source: Analysis of federal data by University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Nicholas Hillman)