LOUISIANA ORGANIZES: Could Arkansas?


Great story in the New York Times
about the East Baton Rouge School Board taking advantage of a change in state policy and denying a property tax break to Exxon Mobil, which has long had a major refinery in the district. The business lobby has gone nuts.

Louisiana has been captive to the petrochemical industry since forever. You know the theory well from Arkansas legislative debates. You’ll kill the goose that laid the golden egg if you don’t give preferential treatment to such major corporations. Thus, the giveaway tax rates on timberland in Arkansas, among many other corporate-friendly enticements.

Advertisement

Enter a favorite figure of mine, a heroic National Guard Army general who stood tall during the Katrina disaster:

The vote has also revived a vexing, and defining, Louisiana question about the deference a perennially impoverished state must show to big business.

“We’ve allowed the oil and gas industry to hijack our democracy,” said Russel L. Honoré, a retired Army lieutenant general who earned acclaim for leading the military response to Hurricane Katrina, and who had urged the East Baton Rouge Parish school board to reject the exemptions. “The industry will brag about it all the time, how well we’re doing in terms of business development. Well, if we’re doing so well, why are we the second-poorest state?”

Remind you of any other state anxious to give preferential tax treatment, if not outright cash handouts, to the wealthy and corporate interests? Just today, a spokesman for Gov. Asa Hutchinson described a Senate vote today on an income tax cut for the rich as defining the future of Arkansas.

Advertisement

We’ve already been well-defined: Poor but friendly to the rich. Look around and see where it’s gotten us and our schools.

Local activists are fighting back in Louisiana.

Advertisement

Together Baton Rouge and its sister organization, Together Louisiana, argue that the industrial tax breaks starve local schools and governments of badly needed funds and leave them unable to lift a state mired toward the bottom of national rankings on education, crime and infrastructure. In Baton Rouge, one in four residents lives in poverty.

On the cusp of the $150 million annual giveaway the governor wants to give to the richest 5 percent in Arkansas, I wonder if some togetherness is in order in Arkansas.

The story in Louisiana is uplifting. The grassroots movement is having an impact across the state against giveaways that starve local services.

PS: Here’s a link to Together Baton Rouge’s viral video.

Advertisement