Tweaking a property tax perk? Louisiana stakeholders debate specifics

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BATON ROUGE, La. (WVLA/WGMB) — An executive order Louisiana’s governor signed shortly after taking office in 2016 gave local governing bodies a say over which companies get property tax exemptions. Now a proposal from state government leaders could help widen the requirements.

Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration is negotiating to prevent local bodies from banning already-built or already-started corporate construction projects from getting Industrial Tax Exemption Program — or ITEP — perks.

Baton Rouge Area Chamber CEO Adam Knapp told a media luncheon Monday that business leaders have been looking for a statewide change like this.

“If you’re a business trying to make plans to invest in Louisiana, and you see that the state is communicating with you one set of rules, and communities are articulating a different set of expectations, it creates a disjointed program,” Knapp said.

The idea is sparking concern from groups whose services often benefit from property tax revenue.

“Approving ITEP exemptions for projects that are already completed does not meet the definition or intent of the ITEP incentive program,” Dr. Tia Mills, president of the Louisiana Association of Educators. “We are hopeful that local entities when considering ITEP applications will not relax the prohibition standard on completed projects.”

But it’s unclear how far this idea will go. State developers are still debating the specifics. Edwards’ chief counsel, Matthew Block, says tweaks to the program could materialize before the legislative session starts in March.

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