A Texas-based company promised more than 100 six-figure salary jobs as it sought approval to build a fertilizer plant in a mostly-Black area in Louisiana’s Cancer Alley. But when American Plant Food (APF) applied for the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP), one of the most generous tax-incentive programs in the country, it only listed 13 new jobs with an average annual salary of $56,000. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Wesley Muller explains how the new job figures are dampening local support for the project and how these tax exemptions burden local governments, forcing them to give up much-needed property tax revenue that supports schools, roads and other public services. 

That support will certainly disappear once people learn the true number of jobs being created, the significantly lower salaries and the large incentives the company wants taxpayers to subsidize, [Jefferson Parish resident Lisa Karlin] she said. APF’s total 10-year tax exemption would amount to $47.3 million. In return for forgoing $5.9 million in revenue per year, Jefferson Parish’s economy would receive an injection of just $728,000 per year in the form of employment income from APF’s payroll — a value that is eight times less than what the company would get from the parish each year. At that rate, it would take 65 years for the parish to recover the cost of the exemption.

Disclosure: LBP Executive Director Jan Moller is a member of the Board of Commerce and Industry, which rules on ITEP applications. The board deferred AFP’s request until next month.

Louisiana receives millions to prepare for future storms
White House Infrastructure czar and former New Orleans Mayor, Mitch Landrieu announced on Monday that ten Louisiana parishes will receive around $200 million to prepare for future hurricanes. Rising sea temperatures caused by global warming are increasing the number of major storms, and record heat is currently making conditions in the Gulf of Mexico very dangerous before the peak of hurricane season. The funding, which stems from the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law, will be used to elevate homes and harden electrical grids. The Advocate’s Tyler Bridges reports

[U.S Rep. Troy] Carter said Louisiana is learning to be better ready for the next major storm. “Climate change is real,” he said. “We’re building a more resilient, safe and equitable community.” Carter added, “We know these storms are coming.” Local government have to come up with 10% to 25% of the total cost of each project, with the federal government footing the rest of the bill. With the Entergy project, the utility will cover Jefferson Parish’s match, Maggie Talley, the parish director of floodplain management and hazard mitigation. All of the local governments in Louisiana will receive the funding unless FEMA finds a problem in its final review of the application.

Road home recipients railroaded 
Louisiana’s Road Home program, created in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, provided grants for people to elevate their property to reduce the risk of future flooding. But, some grantees used their grants – with verbal approval from program officials – for other repairs. Eventually, the federal government sued Louisiana for more than $300 million because of these misspent funds. In response, the state sued homeowners to recoup the grant money. While the lawsuit against the homeowners was eventually dropped altogether, Louisiana said grantees who already repaid would not be reimbursed. In early summer, Louisiana was notified by the federal government that it could keep the $20.5 million it still owed. As the Louisiana Illuminator’s Greg LaRose explains, the state’s decision to use this money to build a passenger-rail line between New Orleans and Baton Rouge has left some questions. 

It has the potential to spur economic development on a regional level and address persistent traffic issues along the Interstate 10 corridor, a problem that will only worsen when widening work and the new Mississippi River bridge are undertaken. Using the HUD settlement money for the rail line has to feel like salt in the wounds for the Road Home recipients from whom the state clawed back $6.8 million in grants. … The Edwards administration maintains dropping the Road Home lawsuits does not imply money was wrongfully recovered from recipients in the decided cases, nor that the pending cases were illegitimate. But we’ve also seen the state government have a hard time admitting that it did anything wrong.

Defunding public schools
A conservative “parents’ rights” movement has spearheaded opposition to the teaching of slavery in schools and called for outright bans of certain school library books. Perhaps no one has helped bring this ideology from a fringe movement to the forefront of the debate surrounding America’s education system more than Michael Farris. The Washington Post’s Emma Brown and Peter Jamison detail his and others’ attacks on public education and the latest plan to siphon billions of tax dollars from public schools.

Now, speaking on a confidential conference call to a secretive group of Christian millionaires seeking, in the words of one member, to “take down the education system as we know it today,” Farris made the same points he had made in courtrooms since the 1980s. Public schools were indoctrinating children with a secular worldview that amounted to a godless religion, he said. The solution: lawsuits alleging that schools’ teachings about gender identity and race are unconstitutional, leading to a Supreme Court decision that would mandate the right of parents to claim billions of tax dollars for private education or home schooling.

Number of the Day
33,000 – Number of acres burned by the Tiger Island Fire, the largest wildfire ever in Louisiana. (Source: Washington Post