Members of “Together Baton Rouge” said they applaud ExxonMobil’s sudden decision to withdraw its ITEP request applications a day before the Metro Council planned to vote on it.
The East Baton Rouge School board voted against ExxonMobil’s request last Thursday during a regular board meeting.
Together Baton Rouge has offered this statement:
“Together Baton Rouge applauds ExxonMobil’s decision to withdraw its applications for industrial tax exemptions that were being sought on its 2017 capital upgrades.
Since 1936, ITEP has been the only tax exemption program in the country to give decision-making authority over local tax exemptions to a state-level board.
Over 83 years, this only-in-Louisiana set-up led to a culture of rubber-stamping exemptions. ITEP ballooned into the largest corporate giveaway program in the nation.
In 2016, Governor John Bel Edwards issued an executive order restoring local control over ITEP, which began to bring ITEP back into line with how Texas and every other state in the nation handles exemptions.
The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board and Metropolitan Council have established clear, predictable standards for what exemptions will be approved, requiring job creation and prohibiting exemptions on projects that already have been completed.
ExxonMobil’s proposed expansion of its polyolefins plant meets those standards and was approved for an ITEP late last year, with no objection from Together Baton Rouge. Its most recent exemptions on work completed two years ago did not meet those standards and so have been withdrawn.
“Local standards provide what’s most important, both for our corporate partners and for our community, which is predictability,” said Rev. Lee T. Wesley with Together Baton Rouge. “What’s new is that, for once, it’s not the predictability of the rubber-stamp; it’s the predictability of genuine standard. That’s a positive and important change.”
The group said they would like to continue focusing on teacher pay raises and improve schools within the East Baton Rouge Parish.