A bill that would partially roll back the Governor’s changes to the Industrial Tax Exemption Program advanced to the House floor 8-7. The change would take the ability to grant the often substantial local property tax breaks to businesses away from local boards, like school boards.

Baton Rouge Representative Rick Edmonds says it’s scaring away business.

“Louisiana Economic Development is reporting significant, not just a couple, not one in a parish, but significant loss in what we see is moving forward with ITEP.”

Companies use ITEP to request hundreds of thousands, and even millions in tax breaks from the state.

Governor Edwards opposes reversing the changes he made to the program last year. Edwards’ Executive Council, Matthew Block, says every other state allows local level authorities to make decisions about issuing local tax breaks…

“The local taxing entities should have a voice as to whether or not their tax dollars should be exempted under the ITEP program.”

The changes created a controversy in Baton Rouge when the local school board denied Exxon a several hundred thousand dollar ITEP request under the new rules.

The change would see the parish president, sheriff, and school board president in charge of accepting or rejecting ITEP requests. Opponents would prefer keeping the authority at the city/town, and not parish level, but Edmonds says that should be local enough.

“They will have their voice, and they will have to learn to work together on this item, and i think that they will.”

Before Edwards’ changes, the decision to issue the tax break was made by a state level board.