The recent study by the United Way, dubbed ALICE, examined the percent of households in Louisiana who live in poverty, or who are employed but cannot afford basic necessities, and those who make enough for basic necessities.   

According to the study, 60 percent of the residents in Livingston Parish can afford basic needs, but 27 percent live within the ALICE wage area, where they are employed but cannot afford basic needs, and 13 percent live in poverty.

Quite an interesting set of statistics in a parish that is one of the highest-taxed areas in the country, with regard to sales. For property tax, Livingston Parish ranks first in Louisiana – but the Bayou State has some of the lowest property tax rates in the country, among those that charge it at all.

The market adage today for retail is that it “follows rooftops.” Recently, Denham Springs Mayor Gerard Landry and Joe Moore, of NAI Latter & Blum and the broker for the Bass Pro development area, announced they were pursing another anchor store for the area – IKEA, a $40 billion-plus in revenue, multinational furniture retailer.

A regional draw, so to speak, with the nearest store being in Houston.

Now, 60 percent of the newest population figure of 48,000 isn’t so bad when considering those who – in theory – have plenty of disposable income.

That’s, roughly, 28,800 homes.

Due to their use of households, the calculation doesn’t need to subtract kids – these are income levels on a per household basis and, don’t forget – retail follows “rooftops.”

Now, there’s no cross-reference as to whether or not members of these households vote, but, one can glean from social media comments, verbal objections, and submissions to The News’ very own Call & Comment line that at least some of them do – suggesting that, while life is already difficult, adding to their eventual fiduciary duty at the checkout line, wherein retailers large and small almost invariably pass the tax burden – of any type – along to the consumer would hurt.

Especially if they can’t afford it, already.

So, any tax is going to be a tough sell in the foreseeable future when you combine anti-tax climate, current tax rates, and now a study that shows 40 percent of the parish couldn’t afford new taxes, even if they voted against their own self-interest and helped to pass the measure.

Where’s the push here? Well, it needs to focus on retail and, to a certain extent, industry. Industry can employ people and, as CB&I, Martin Brower, Pepsi, and others have proved – there’s a market here, which pays folks, who then spend the money.

But, most importantly, shops need to be filled with retail wares and new stores need to come.

IKEA would be a huge change because it would prove that an international retailer would find success here as the regional draw, combined with local houses, would provide the needed revenue.

Which, in turn, would fill local governmental coffers more. Never forget – the sales tax that local entities “gave up” to help the TIF for Bass Pro (which will be paid off early) never existed. Those taxes were added to their bottom line and, once the bonds for the TIF are paid, even more revenue will flow.

Imagine what a multi-national retailer could do.

The market just isn’t there for new taxes, as evidenced by the measures on the ballot this fall and winter that all failed.

Local governments will have to rely on what they currently have until new retail comes to town, and any tax entity that wants to pass something new will have to work harder than it ever has to market the measure – understanding fully it will most likely, right now, fail.

Until someone comes out with a balance sheet that says, “This tax level is the magic point,” the doors to the new tax shop are closed, and this study just sealed the deal.

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