The Louisiana House voted Thursday for a proposed constitutional amendment that would expand the kinds of businesses that could get exemptions from local property taxes.
But the House-passed version would give more local government entities a say on whether they want to forego the taxes to woo the businesses.
As it arrived on the House floor, the Jindal administration proposal would have put the sole authority with the parish governing body. State representatives didn’t like that and added municipalities and school boards into the mix.
The House then approved the proposed constitutional amendment on a 100-0 vote. House Bill 674 now moves to the Senate for debate, along with its statutory companion House Bill 694. If approved by a two-thirds vote by the Legislature, the proposition would go to voters in the Nov. 6 election.
Under the legislation, the state’s current 10-year industrial tax exemption would be expanded to include projects such as multistate distribution centers, large-scale data centers, clean technology, destination heath care, digital media and company headquarters. The projects would have to involve at least $25 million in capital investment.
State economic development chief Stephen Moret testified earlier that the state is competitive when it comes to recruiting manufacturing businesses but less so for prize nonmanufacturing businesses.
“This is expanding to certain nonmanufacturing firms,” said legislation sponsor state Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette. “We want to give the parishes the ability to grant these ... for the payroll you are going to bring in.; ... Parishes will be able to say we want this special project.”
But state Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin, said parish government should not have the sole authority. He said municipalities and school boards rely on the property tax millages too.
“In most parishes school boards are the biggest collector of millages, then followed by hospital districts,” Jones said. “I am concerned about taking school boards’ money without them having a say.”
Robideaux said parish governing bodies would take into account the impact on other groups.
State Rep. Anthony “Tony” Ligi, R-Metairie, offered an amendment to include municipalities in the decision-making process, which won quick approval.
Then, state Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, sponsored the same sign-off authority for school boards.
“No parish board should tell a school system or any elected body where their ad valorem dollars should go,” Smith said.
State Rep. Tim Burns, R-Mandeville, objected, arguing the sign-off would be just another obstacle for state economic development efforts that would help local communities.
State Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City, said the money lost through property tax breaks would be more than sufficiently offset with additional sales tax and property taxes as new people move in. “It’s going to grow the economy,” Thompson said.
But state Rep. J. Rogers Pope, R-Livingston, said legislators need to be fair with school districts. “It’s more and more difficult to raise money to promote public schools,” he said.
Robideaux stepped in and said he did not object to the school board sign-off.
“If the projects are really significant projects for an area, you are going to be able to get the school boards, local council, the municipalities. I don’t think any of these amendments are unreasonable or kill the bill,” Robideaux said.
Burns withdrew his objection and the House then approved the additional provision.
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