Gov. John Bel Edwards reformed the state’s generous tax-forgiveness program for manufacturers in 2016 to make it slightly less generous – and to give local authorities control over their property tax revenue. In 2021, the New Orleans City Council exercised their new right by rejecting six property tax breaks sought by Folgers Coffee Company under that state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program. It’s been more than two years since the rejection, but Folgers is still refusing to pay its taxes and has asked the Louisiana Board of Commerce and Industry to overturn the decision. The Louisiana Illuminator’s Wesley Muller reports: 

 “It is time to bring this lengthy saga to a conclusion,” the letter (from the New Orleans City Council) states. “We ask this Board to deny the appeal and make clear that Folgers must pay the taxes it owes when its applications were denied by our elected bodies.” The Folgers case has become one of the most prominent examples of local governments taking control of local taxing matters after Gov. John Bel Edwards issued executive orders to change ITEP approval standards in 2016. However, many believe the clock is ticking on those reforms to expire once Edwards’ final term ends this year.

Disclosure: LBP Executive Director Jan Moller is a member of the state Board of Commerce & Industry, which oversees ITEP and other tax incentive programs. 

Ignoring climate change is bad risk management 
Members of the state Bond Commission last week indicated that they would further restrict financial institutions from doing business with the state if they have been outspoken about moving away from fossil fuels. This concept, better known as environmental, social and governance standards (ESG) has become a flashpoint for conservative states. But as the New York Times’ Ron Lieber explains, ignoring the effects of climate change is not a good risk-management strategy. 

There’s just one problem with this fledgling anti-E.S.G. movement: To act and invest in a state’s best interest ought to mean taking every risk into account, including climate change. … To prudent portfolio stewards of everything from retirement investments to housing — that’s you, I hope, and me — an E.S.G. filter is simply good risk management, just as looking at international economic or demographic trends can be. Keeping an eye on how climate change may affect a stock holding (or the place for a retirement home), or whether a board is made up mainly of white men from fancy colleges, is part of what anyone should consider when picking stocks.

These actions also go against common sense, especially for a state like Louisiana that is one of the worst-off states for climate-driven disasters

A Social Security tax to address shortfall
Social Security faces insolvency in less than 15 years unless tax increases or cuts are used to address its shortfall. Aiming for a sharp contrast to previous GOP plans to cut Social Security, Sen. Bernie Sanders pitched the White House on a plan to stabilize the popular program and increase benefits. The Washington Post’s Jeff Stein reports: 

In that Jan. 25 meeting, Sanders pushed the president to fully fund Social Security for more than seven decades by expanding payroll taxes on affluent Americans, rather than just on workers’ first $160,000 in earnings, as is the case under current law. Sanders also asked the president to back his proposal — highly unlikely to pass Congress — to not only defend existing benefits but also increase them. He wants to provide another $2,400 per year for every Social Security beneficiary.

Federal funds drive orphaned well cleanup
State legislators last year passed a law that positions Louisiana to receive $200 million from the new federal infrastructure law to clean up the approximately 4,600 abandoned “orphan” oil and gas wells on state lands. But Louisiana lawmakers aren’t the only ones taking advantage of the $4.7 billion allocated for plugging orphaned wells in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The New York Times’ Will Peischel reports on the nationwide effort and the meticulous work that it encompasses. 

A well-plugging expedition would not be considered a casual jaunt. Lugging oil rigs, construction equipment and bivouac gear into the wilderness to plug a well involves logistical acrobatics, a feat that Mr. Smith described as “90 percent planning, 10 percent execution.” Those in charge of the work at Jean Lafitte in Louisiana described how piping from some of the park’s orphaned wells poked up near the waterline, threatening boats. And because their operators had abandoned them, the wells might not be properly sealed, carrying the risk of releasing toxins into the water. “Just kills everything in its path,” said Mr. Peltz of the Environmental Defense Fund. “Salting-the-earth style.”

Number of the Day
$22.79 – Median hourly wage for union workers in Louisiana. The median
wage for union workers in the state is 20% higher than for non-union
workers per hour respectively. People covered by union contracts are also much more likely to have access to basic benefits. (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics via LBP’s State of Working Louisiana)