(The Center Square) – Louisiana lawmakers advanced two new tax breaks for individuals on Monday while punting on a corporate tax incentive proposal tied to a pending constitutional amendment.
House Bill 78 by Rep. Beau Beaullieu called for allowing local political bodies and industrial taxpayers to negotiate an agreement whereby the company could get nine years of tax credits in exchange for up to four years’ worth of property tax payments. Local governments would have a new economic development tool to attract investment while getting money up front for immediate needs, supporters said.
The arrangement currently would be unconstitutional, though early voters already are considering changing that. Amendment 5 on the November ballot would allow similar arrangements, known as payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOTs, for up to 25 years.
Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee members wondered whether they should be making changes to the state’s policy on property tax PILOTs when voters haven’t approved the concept yet. And senators debated whether, like a proposed constitutional amendment, HB 78 would need the approval of at least two-thirds of the members of both bodies, rather than a simple majority.
Brian Eddington, representing the Louisiana tax assessors’ association, said his organization generally opposes negotiated tax bills because the state constitution calls for similarly situated taxpayers to be treated the same. Sen. Jay Luneau, echoing some of the same concerns he raised about Amendment 5, noted that PILOTs could be vehicles for corruption or for short-sighted politicians to make deals without worrying about future consequences.
Committee members deadlocked, leaving Chairman Bret Allain to break the tie.
“I think we need to look at this in the spring,” he said, referring to next year’s regular session.
In other legislative action Monday, the full Senate approved House Bill 26, which calls for a state sales tax holiday on Nov. 20 and 21 on up to $2,500 in purchases. Meals and vehicles would not be eligible.
Shoppers would save an estimated $4.5 million, according to the Legislative Fiscal Office, money that otherwise would go into the state general fund.
Senators also passed House Bill 20, which would give families a tax break to compensate them for hiring someone to help with online education. Rep. Rick Edmonds, the bill’s sponsor, said it would be worth about $100 to $200 per family.
Both bills were sent back to the House to work out differences between the House and Senate versions.
David Jacobs, Staff Reporter for The Center Square, is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018.