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Strong Support Shown For Louisiana's Business Tax Breaks

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Lawmakers who want to scale back the tax breaks Louisiana doles out to businesses don't appear to have public support on their side.

         A poll released Thursday from LSU's Public Policy Research Lab says 72 percent of respondents support cutting taxes on business to attract them to the state. And 55 percent favor using state tax dollars to pay companies to come to Louisiana.

         Even when told of specific criticisms about the economic development incentive programs, public support for the tax breaks remains high, near 60 percent.

         Those findings come as state lawmakers consider shrinking Louisiana's tax breaks, whose costs have grown dramatically in recent years even as the state faced continuing budget troubles.

         With a $1.6 billion budget gap to close for next year, legislators are questioning if the state's been too generous with its economic development incentives. Several tax break changes are under consideration for the upcoming legislative session that begins April 13.

         "If they want to curb these programs, they are going to have to really work to make the case to the public. As of now, most of the public sees these incentives as good for the state," Michael Henderson, the lab's research director, said in a statement.

         Gov. Bobby Jindal is proposing to lessen $500 million in spending on refundable tax credits, in which the state pays out more than the taxes a person or business owes. In such instances, the state simply writes a check to cover the cost of the rest of the tax break.

         Jindal has described those types of subsidies as "corporate welfare" and wants to redirect the money to health care services and public colleges. Business organizations are opposed to the largest pieces of the tax break scale-back proposal.

         The GOP governor's argument appears to have more traction with members of the opposite party.

         LSU's poll shows both Republicans and Democrats support tax breaks for companies, but Democrats' backing of direct payments to business falls to 48 percent, compared to 58 percent among Republicans.

         Pollsters surveyed 980 adults by phone from Jan. 12 to Feb. 13, including both landlines and cellphones. The overall survey's margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

         – by AP Reporter Melinda Deslatte 




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