Louisiana leaders point to worker bonuses, raises, new jobs thanks to federal tax cuts

Within a month of President Donald Trump signing federal tax reform into law, several Louisiana companies announced that they were sharing their tax savings with employees and customers by giving millions of dollars in bonuses, raises, and enhanced benefits to their employees, and multi-year savings to customers.

U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, R-Port Barre, said that Congress passing tax reform for the first time in 31 years would provide tax relief for all Americans, broaden the tax base, and lower the tax burden across every income level. He added that tax relief will “ignite our economy. … the data is confirming what we’ve known for months: major tax reform will grow the economy and help working Americans.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act signed will create nearly 13,300 new jobs in Louisiana and increase middle-class Louisianans’ after-tax income by nearly $1,857 annually.

Americans for Tax Reform, which compiled a comprehensive list of businesses giving raises, bonuses, and other savings to employees and customers in Louisiana, notes that tax reform resulted in 90 percent of wage earners receiving higher take-home pay.

Small businesses to large financial institutions gave bonuses and raises to their employees shortly after tax reform became law. Continental Rail’s Delta Southern Railroad in Tallulah gave its employees bonuses. Sulphur-based Stine Home & Yard increased its employees’ base salaries and 401(k) matching amount, and announced it was investing in new technology and in the local community throughout 2018.

The home healthcare services company LHC Group increased its annual merit raised percentages, offset a portion of future increases in health insurance premium costs for its employees and enhanced and expanded its 401(k) plan. In an email to 15,000 employees, its chairman and CEO, Keith Myers, wrote, “I want to point out the positive impact the Tax Cut and Jobs Act will have for our company and for each of you. As a result of this legislation, our company’s effective tax rate has been reduced from roughly 41 percent to a projected range of 29-30 percent for 2018. Because of our reduced tax burden, we will be able to make important investments in our company, including additional investments in our greatest asset – our people.”

Gulf Coast Bank & Trust Company raised its minimum wage to $12 per hour and increased by 50 percent the amount it gives through its Community Rewards Program.

“This year we are increasing the amount to be given away in our Community Rewards Program from $50,000 to $75,000 in response to the tax reform bill and because we want to help our local nonprofits even more,” Gulf Coast CEO and President Guy T. Williams said.

Metairie Bank and Trust increased its base wage to $12 per hour and gave its 120 employees $1,000 cash bonuses. President and CEO Ron Samford said tax reform provided “a substantial benefit to the bank, through significantly lower corporate income tax rates.” The bank also plans to increase its commitment to community enrichment efforts.

LaFayette-based Iberia Bank gave raises and bonuses to about 80 percent of its employees. Non-exempt, non-commissioned associates received a $2 raise per hour and all part-time and full-time associates who earn between $15 per hour and up to $100,000 annually received a $1,000 cash bonus.

BancorpSouth Bank, with 230 in Louisiana and eight other states, gave pay raises to more than 70 percent and bonuses to 20 percent of its 4,000 employees on Jan. 1, 2018. It announced it was investing more than $10 million in 2018 to benefit 96 percent of its non-commissioned workforce.

“BancorpSouth’s continued and future success is based on the economic vitality of the communities we serve and taking care of our teammates allows us to provide the very best service to our customers, communities and shareholders,” chairman and CEO Dan Rollins said in a statement.

Daniel Erspamer, CEO of the Pelican Institute, told Watchdog.org, “It’s amazing what happens when we let taxpayers keep more of the money they earn. That’s the way to jumpstart the economy, spur job creation, and give working families the financial security and opportunity they worked hard to earn. The countless workers and job creators across Louisiana who are now benefiting from tax reform is evident, and it’s a stark contrast to what’s happening in Baton Rouge. This isn’t an academic exercise: we can see clearly the impact of tax reform in every community in the state. Here’s to hoping our state lawmakers are paying attention and will soon follow suit.”

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has proposed raising taxes to offset a budget deficit.

Like other utility companies nationwide, the New Orleans-based Entergy Louisiana, LLC and Pineville-based Cleco Corporation announced rate reductions to its customers. Both companies proposed plans to the Louisiana Public Service Commission outlining customer savings.

“Entergy believes that the tax reform legislation will benefit our customers by lowering the tax costs that they otherwise would pay in rates,” the company said.

Companies with a national presence like AT&T gave bonuses to all union-represented, non-management and front-line managers, impacting nearly all of its 3,934 employees in Louisiana. Apple stores in Baton Rouge and Metairie gave all of its employees $2,500 bonuses in the form of restricted stock units.

Best Buy, Carmax, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Cintas Corporation, Comcast, Home Depot, Lowe’s, T.J. Maxx, McDonald’s, Starbucks Coffee Company, U-Haul, and Walmart gave bonuses, increased or expanded other benefits to roughly 50,000 employees and created thousands of new jobs throughout the Pelican State.

This article was first published on Watchdog.org.

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