The Louisiana House Chamber passed Bill HB456, which would require the state’s Department of Economic Development to remove certain employee data from public records related to corporate tax incentive programs, but some lawmakers argue that the bill is “anti-transparent”.
The bill, now under Senate scrutiny, would apply to membership applications from companies receiving tax breaks through initiatives such as the Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP).
Bill lead author Rep. Rick Edmonds (R-Baton Rouge) says he should protect the private information such as names, addresses, and social security numbers of employees of participating companies, but opponents argue that a special requirement in the bill, the redaction, is employee wage data prevent the public from seeing whether employers deserve the tax breaks granted.
“I consent to the names, the addresses, the [social security numbers], it’s okay not to have the name of the position. But if we cannot individually relate hours worked to wages, it is impossible for the public to know whether the legal requirements for wages have been met. “Said Rep. Barry Ivey (R-Central) during the debate, before the bill was passed by the Louisiana House Chamber on May 20th. “That’s the only way we can possibly know.”
In response to a change proposed by Ivey that would have removed the editorial requirements for individual payroll dates but retained all other editorial offices, Edmonds found that various government departments have the authority to internally review the details of each company.
“[Louisiana Economic Development] can find out what these wages are. I think the Treasury can look into all of this, ”Edmonds said.
However, a March 2020 Tax Incentive Assessment report issued by the state auditor of the Quality Jobs (QJ) program, one of the tax break initiatives that would be affected by the drafting requirements, found that Louisiana’s economic development “does not always be notified ” has been [Louisiana Department of Revenue] when a company does not meet the requirements of the QJ job creation program as required by state law. “
Edmonds also argued that the wages the company pays shouldn’t be included in the public records because the workers aren’t the ones who get the tax breaks.
“You mentioned that we are trying to protect an employee. If the employer reports the wages for a position or any position and then reports the hours associated with those wages, what might an employee’s information be in Jeopardy? ”Ivey asked.
“I understand that you want to make sure they keep the deal, that’s the incentive. I get it. But I don’t think a normal employee [they’re] Not responsible for any of this, you are just an employee. “Edward replied.
Ivey cited data from the 2019-2020 tax exemption budget to suggest that the wage data edits would benefit large companies participating in the Quality Jobs program.
“There are 123 companies getting $ 140 million. You can’t tell me this bill for. is [small companies]. This bill is not about accountability or protecting the little guy. The point here is just to cover up some of these problems from the big corporations … This bill would not allow any public accountability. None. Zero.”
MPs Buddy Mincey (R-Livingston) and Robby Carter (D-District 72) also had questions about the impact of the bill on the transparency of corporate tax incentive programs.
“Rep Ivey, we talk about transparency all the time, in every way or not. Are you telling me that if this law passed in this current state, it would not allow us that transparency? ”Asked Mincey (R-Livingston), confirming Ivey.
In his closing remarks before the final vote in the House of Representatives, Edmonds suggested that the rejection of the bill was more about problems with the tax incentive programs and defended himself and the bill against allegations of anti-transparency by reiterating that the bill was about protection the employee goes.
“This is not about business reporting or a lack of reporting. They still have to do all of their reports. You have to qualify why they are doing what they are doing. None of these things are removed. This is about a person who works for a company. It is not about a person requesting any of these exemptions. They are individuals. This is for your personal information. “
The law was passed in 59-38 without Ivey’s amendment.