Payments in lieu of taxes agreements on Nov. 3 ballot

Payments in lieu of taxes agreements on Nov. 3 ballot

LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - Voters around the state will decide on eight constitutional amendments on Nov. 3.

Amendment No. 5 resurrects a controversial issue in Southwest Louisiana: payments in lieu of taxes.

There was a huge court battle between Cameron LNG and the Cameron Police Jury versus the Cameron Parish district attorney and a taxpayer who challenged a “payment in lieu of taxes” agreement for Cameron LNG. D.A. Jennifer Jones said it costs taxpayers millions of dollars over the years.

The court found against the “PILOT” plan proposed for Cameron Parish. But Legislator Mark Abraham says it was only because local governments did not have the authority to make such agreements. The constitutional amendment would change that.

It’s a little like the choice a lottery winner makes on whether to take a lump sum or paid out monthly over maybe 25 years.

With a two-thirds vote of the legislature, Abraham was able to put the issue on the ballot for Nov. 3. He questions why people would be against it.

“They’re reading the amendment wrong," Abraham said. “They are acting like the industry, if they give money upfront - that the payment in lieu of taxes agreement means that they, industry, will never pay any taxes. That’s not correct. This just means that the industry will have a reduction in taxes in exchange for some dollars upfront.”

He thinks the opportunity for immediate money, when there is a critical need, is in the best interest of the public.

“The discounted amount is going to be a very small amount, in proportion to the total property tax that they pay and the benefit would be, say your children’s school needs a new library," Abraham said. “You’re educating your children now rather than waiting ten years down the road to build that new library.”

Such agreements would only happen if local governments negotiate a deal they think benefits the public and they approve it.

But retired Gen. Russel Honore says the approval of Amendment 5 would be the worst thing since Hurricane Katrina.

“No. 5 would be a disaster for Louisiana," Honore said. "Our current ITEP (industrial tax exemption) program is not fair to the poor people of Louisiana because politicians get to negotiate tax breaks to industry.”

And Honore disputes Abraham that such programs provide incentives for industry to come here.

“They don’t come here for the gumbo," Honore said. “They come here for the tax breaks and the loose environmental regulations. That’s why they come here.”

Together Louisiana kicked off a campaign at 6:30 p.m. Monday to oppose voter approval of Amendment No. 5. There were close to 400 people gathered online in a Zoom meeting.

For a look at the pros and cons of Amendment 5 and the other amendments, visit the Public Affairs Research Council HERE.

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