BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Louisiana House unanimously agreed Thursday to expand a 10-year local property tax exemption and make it available to more businesses, but only after they included more hurdles for businesses to clear before the tax break could be offered.
The package of bills (House Bills 674 and 694) sought by the Jindal administration would allow parishes to offer the tax breaks to digital media businesses, data centers, renewable energy firms, corporate headquarters and research and development firms — if they have a majority of their sales out of the state and make a capital investment in Louisiana greater than $25 million.
Local governing bodies would have to decide if they want to participate before the tax break could be offered to companies as part of a state and local incentive package. They could decide whether to use the program on a project-by-project basis.
Lawmakers also required that local school boards, if they would lose tax revenue, be involved in signing off on the tax break. Supporters of the change said schools are financially struggling and should decide whether they are willing to give up further money they would be getting from property taxes.
"I think if the projects are really significant projects for the area, you're going to be able to get the school boards, the municipalities" to agree, said Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, sponsor of the proposal.
The measure heads next to the Senate for debate. Before the property tax break can be expanded, it also would require a constitutional change approved by voters in a statewide election.
The tax break could cost up to $25 million in lost local tax dollars by the fifth year of its availability, according to financial estimates. But Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret said the tax revenue that would be lost is tax income the local communities aren't getting today.
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