For decades, Louisiana’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program forced local governments to give up hundreds of millions of dollars in property tax revenue to manufacturing corporations. But Gov. John Bel Edwards reformed the tax-forgiveness program to make it slightly less generous – and to give local authorities control over their property tax revenue. A new report from Good Jobs First finds that the reforms disproportionately helped communities of color in Louisiana’s “Cancer Alley” along the Mississippi River. 

A majority of families living in Cancer Alley are Black or Brown. Many factory sites were once sugar plantations where enslaved people lived. While the state’s population is 42% BIPOC, 52% of Cancer Alley’s residents and 74% of its public-school students are BIPOC. Because this community bears the brunt of the toxins emitted by oil refineries and chemical plants, Cancer Alley is widely considered an extreme example of environmental racism.[1] ITEP also lavished resources on petrochemical factories in the state’s southwestern corner (abutting Texas on the Gulf Coast), another region where low-income residents suffered from toxic emissions.

Edwards’ reforms were done via executive order and can be undone by his successor with a stroke of a pen. 

Temple’s plan for Louisiana’s insurance industry 
Louisiana’s next insurance commissioner – elected without opposition when his only opponent dropped out – favors an industry-friendly “free market” approach to insurance regulation. This includes reducing oversight of the industry and allowing companies to raise rates more often and drop longtime customers. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Julie O’Donoghue asked Temple how he wants to change the state’s insurance industry and previewed the headwinds he could face. 

“Insurance companies do not have to do business in the state of Louisiana,” Temple said. “They chose to do business in the state of Louisiana.” But to many, including [retiring Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon] Donelon, the changes Temple looks to make could soften consumer protections. Traditionally, proposals like Temple’s also struggle to gain approval from the Louisiana Legislature, in spite of major pushes from the insurance industry.

Saltwater intrusion is already overwhelming communities
An updated timeline shows the saltwater intrusion into the Mississippi River might not reach New Orleans’ drinking water until November, if it happens at all. But saltwater intrusion is already a reality farther down river. The Washington Post’s Brady Dennis reports from Plaquemines Parish

Locals complain of hair and skin problems caused by showering in salty water, and of appliances that have corroded. They talk of gardens that wilted, pets that got sick, of the smell of rotten eggs from the tap. Mothers describe the stress of seeing their children’s eczema grow worse, of constantly reminding them to use bottled water to drink and brush teeth. Restaurant owners have grown tired of trucking in ice each day and cooking meals with bottled water. 

Stronger storms fueled by climate change are making Louisiana’s coast a riskier place to live. The prospect of increased droughts, another consequence of a warming planet, could make saltwater intrusion more common. 

(Byron) Marinovich, a former councilman, grew up here. He and his wife opened their restaurant from the rubble of Hurricane Katrina. But the aging infrastructure, the devastating storms and now the angst over water have left him exhausted — he says they would “leave today” if someone bought out the restaurant. 

Defense Department may have best schools
The U.S. Defense Department runs one of the highest-performing school systems in the country. Last year, students at schools for children of military members and civilian employees outscored every other jurisdiction in math and reading on the nation’s report card. The New York Times’ Sarah Mervosh explains

Prudence Carter, a Brown University sociologist who studies educational inequality, said the Defense Department’s results showed what could happen when all students were given the resources of a typical middle-class child: housing, health care, food, quality teachers. “We aren’t even talking about wealth — whether they get to go to fancy summer camps,” Dr. Carter added. “We are talking about the basic, everyday things.”

Number of the Day
$458,269 – Minimum income needed to be in the top 1% of earners in Louisiana. (Internal Revenue Service via Axios New Orleans)