Legislators question incentives for South African company

Legislators raised objections Friday about the Jindal administration’s incentive package for South African energy giant Sasol.

Some members of the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget said they wanted an estimate on how much a payroll incentive ultimately will cost state government.

“Love the project. Love the idea. Love the job you do. I tell you I don’t know how much money you want,” state Sen. Jack Donahue told state Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret.

As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Donahue, R-Mandeville, helps shepherd the state spending plan through the Legislature each year.

Moret urged legislators to resist sending the wrong message by delaying approval of an agreement that calls for Sasol to spend between $16 billion and $21 billion to build a plant in Calcasieu Parish.

“I’m just concerned about the message it would send to (Sasol) and the message it would send to other companies we’re currently cultivating,” he said.

Moret argued that the project will generate too much new revenue for the incentive to ever be a negative for state government.

State Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, suggested delaying approval two weeks to give the Jindal administration time to crunch some numbers for legislators.

At first, House Speaker Chuck Kleckley objected to Adley’s motion.

Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, changed his mind after the Legislative Fiscal Office said the Jindal administration ignored requests for details on the incentive package.

The committee agreed, without objection, to revisit the Sasol project in two weeks.

Also delayed: Approval of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s plans to produce liquefied natural gas tanks at the Michoud Assembly Facility in eastern New Orleans.