Tax credits questioned

Lawmakers in the Louisiana House have bumped up their scrutiny of tax break proposals that often have won easy and quick passage in previous years.

State Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, won passage of his House Bill 726 to revamp a tax credit program that doles out tax credits as percentages of investments made into certain types of businesses in the state. But passage came only after repeated concerns raised about the $49.5 million price tag estimated for the state over four years, starting in 2016.

“At what point do we stop giving away our revenues?” said state Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe.

State Rep. Kevin Pearson, R-Slidell, said while he understands tax breaks help attract and create jobs, he thought there was a limit in what the state could afford. “We really need to go and have a good gut check before we go and say, ‘Here’s another $50 million,’” Pearson said.

Leger said the seven-year program would generate far more in economic development than it would cost the state, and he said Louisiana needs to have the tax credits to remain competitive with its neighboring states.

“It’s a clear winner for the state of Louisiana,” he said.

The House sent the proposal to the state Senate for consideration with a 63-33 vote.