An effort to ensure that Bayou Country Superfest keeps returning to LSU’s Tiger Stadium cleared a state Senate committee Monday.
Senate Bill 475 by state Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, would create a state and local sales tax rebate for events held in certain public facilities.
Tax rebates refund money or lower tax obligations.
The Senate Committee on Revenue and Fiscal Affairs voted, without objection, to advance the legislation to the full Senate.
The bill’s backers said the legislation is aimed at Bayou Country Superfest, which is scheduled to be held over the Memorial Day weekend of May 26 and 27.
Past concerts have drawn Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift and the Zac Brown Band as well as thousands of fans.
John Carpenter, chief administrative officer for Mayor-President Kip Holden, said allowing a rebate for ticket sales and parking charges would create an incentive for the producer to stage a high-quality show.
To qualify for the rebate, average attendance would have to be at least 25,000.
Tickets to next month’s event range from $50 to $250 per day.
Carpenter said other states are trying to lure the concert away from Baton Rouge.
“I don’t want to lose this to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, or Gainesville, Florida,” said Paul Arrigo, president of the Baton Rouge Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The Legislative Fiscal Office estimates the rebate would result in an annual loss of $675,000 in state and local government revenue.
State Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, suggested a simpler route would be to not collect the tax.
“These rebate bills are coming at us one after another,” he complained.
Carpenter said a tax credit or exemption would be ideal. Unfortunately, he said, state constitutional restrictions prohibit such a proposal this year.
Adley said that was his point. He said rebates are being used to get around constitutional restrictions.
The constitutional prohibitions put new taxes off the table as well as tax exemptions, exclusions, deductions and credits this year.
The constitution is silent on rebates.
Carpenter said the rebate is necessary because the city-parish is trying to secure a longtime commitment from the promoter. He said there is a risk of the concert going to Houston, Texas.
State Sen. Sharon Broome, D-Baton Rouge, interjected that the state would lose only $300,000 a year in tax revenue.
“This is certainly an economic engine,” she said of the concert.
Dorsey-Colomb said the revenue loss is a small amount of money in the scope of things for a concert that is watched by soldiers overseas.
“If you don’t like rebates, this is not the one you shouldn’t like,” she said.
State Sen. Gary Smith, D-Norco, wanted one assurance.
“Is Kip going to keep wearing his cowboy hat if we pass this?” he asked, referring to the mayor.
Dorsey-Colomb assured him that Holden would wear his Western gear.
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