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After it was threatened with elimination, Senator Bill Cassidy championed the reinstatement of the Historic Tax Credit into the recent federal tax reform bill — and won. For fighting this complex battle, PRC honors Senator Cassidy with the organization’s inaugural Preservation Policy Leadership Award. BY Danielle Del Sol WITH A REPUBLICAN PRESIDENT and a Republican House and Sen- ate, everyone knew tax reform was a legislative priority in 2017. But no one in the preservation world anticipated what was revealed in the House’s first draft of the tax reform bill: the complete elimination the highly successful Historic Tax Credit.   “We were very surprised,” said Carling Dinkler, Vice President of Busi- ness Development for finance firm Enhanced Capital. “The HTC has enjoyed bipartisan support in the past, and it has been seen as effective.” While many see tax credits as handouts, the HTC is a proven moneymak- er: according to Dinkler, the credit returns $1.20 to $1.25 back to the fed- eral government for every $1 allocated.   In New Orleans, the threat of the HTC’s elimination was especially alarming. Louisiana is number one in the nation for tax credit projects, and much of that investment is New Orleans-based. It’s no exaggeration to say that the revitalization of New Orleans’ downtown — today a thriv- ing, growing district with near 100 percent residential occupancy — is due primarily to the federal Historic Tax Credit.   The credit, which refunds developers 20 percent of their qualifying re- habilitation expenditures, stacks in Louisiana with the state’s robust 20 percent State Commercial Tax credit to provide an appealing 40 percent FEBRUARY 2018 credit that developers can utilize as project financing. Those funds are criti- cal to make the preservation of a city’s historic built environment viable — it often costs more to rehabilitate a historic building than build new, accord- ing to figures offered by Mackenzie Ledet, Director for Stonehenge Capital, a tax credit finance firm.   Though they work for competing firms, Ledet and Dinkler have joined forces with other prominent financiers, developers and preservation advo- cates in the past few years to create an informal coalition of historic pres- ervation stakeholders that fights to keep historic tax credits alive on the state and federal level. In a state with perennial budget problems, tax credit programs are continually on the chopping block; this has kept the coalition busy. Nonprofit groups like the Preservation Resource Center, Louisiana Landmarks Society, Preserve Louisiana and the Louisiana Trust for His- toric Preservation were natural allies in this effort as well, as were business leaders like HRI Founder and Board Chair Pres Kabacoff. "We joined forces with Ledet and Dinkler to launch grassroots campaigns through social me- dia and email petitions to alert our followers of the damaging impact the loss of the HTC would have on the entire state,” said PRC Advocacy Coor- dinator Erin Holmes. “Those followers responded by the thousands to let our leaders know the widespread value of the program." www.prcno.org • PRESERVATION IN PRINT   27