After a fiery debate, the state Senate on Tuesday approved a Jindal administration bill that would help offset some of the costs firms pay for relocating to Louisiana.
The proposal, House Bill 937, passed the Senate 33-6.
It now returns to the House for consideration of Senate changes. The House approved the bill last month 81-13.
HB937 was one of three business incentive proposals backed by Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office that cleared the Senate.
However, the issue sparked heated debate in the Senate over offering tax rebates to companies, especially at a time of state budget problems.
State Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe and a sponsor of the legislation, said the proposal is part of the hard work required to create jobs that keep young people in the state.
“That is how you bring people out of poverty,” Walsworth said.
But state Sen. Karen Peterson, D-New Orleans, said senators “will be lying” to constituents if they try to justify the bill as a job creator.
Peterson cited a study that shows corporate income in Louisiana has dropped 73.5 percent in recent years despite using state surplus dollars largely for “the wealthiest entities and individuals in this state.”
“Memo to Senate, memo to Senate,” she said.
“Louisiana citizens are impoverished. We keep passing bills and flawed policies that don’t reflect what Louisiana citizens need,” Peterson said.
“It makes no sense,” she added.
Peterson’s comments sparked a pointed rebuttal from state Sen. Gerald Long, R-Winnfield.
Long disputed Peterson’s comments that the state generally wasted a surplus spawned mostly by federal aid after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.
“It is easy to put the governor on the bus and drop it off the cliff,” he said.
“But I want to tell you we had a $3 billion surplus and we spent the money wisely,” Long said.
“We put more money into roads and bridges than we ever put before,” he said. “Now it is easy to take shots today but I want to tell you none of you walked away from the money tree years ago.”
The bill would provide rebates of up to 25 percent of a qualified company’s cost to relocate its headquarters to Louisiana.
Costs covered could include facilities, equipment, leasing costs and personnel relocation expenses.
The Senate also voted 28-7 for a bill that would allow some firms to lower their corporate income and franchise taxes.
Peterson leveled similar criticism at that proposal, which is House Bill 729.
In addition, the Senate voted 34-4 for a bill to give a payroll subsidy of up to 15 percent for certain businesses. It is House Bill 958.
Both bills now return to the House, which passed similar versions earlier.