Thursday, November 11, 2021

2021 Constitutional Amendments Summary


Source: Public Domain

Readers of this blog pretty much know that I am both a pastor and an elected official. I've explained my view on wearing the distinct hats of "politics and religion" in a previous blog post so I'm not going to rehash that here. But because of the uniqueness of those dual roles I'm often asked for my thoughts about elections. I no longer give out recommendations on individual candidates, but many still ask me what I think about the constitutional amendments in Louisiana - whether they agree with me or not! 😂

This year there are four proposed amendments to the Louisiana Constitution and, as usual, they can be a bit cumbersome. I'm planning on voting "yes" on 3 of the 4 and I'll explain why below. By the way, I get most of my information from the excellent non-partisan guide put out by the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, which goes into great lengths to explain each one and give the pros and cons for each one. With thanks to their 14-page guide, here's my brief take on the 4 constitutional amendments that will appear on our ballot on Saturday, Nov 13, 2021:

  • Constitutional Amendment 1 would create a streamlined sales tax collection system in the state of Louisiana for collecting sales taxes on items purchased on the Internet. Many times internet vendors charge sales taxes but may not remit them back to the state because we have dozens and dozens of different sales tax collection agencies spread across our 64 parishes. Please note that this amendment has nothing to do with our tax rates - they do not change! This simply makes it easier for out-of-state companies to accurately return the sales taxes to the state and local governments (municipalities, police juries, school boards, etc) that they are already collecting by providing them with a "one-stop-shop" way to pay those sales taxes. (I'm voting YES because our state and local governments need this lost revenue to avoid raising taxes in the future.)

  • Constitutional Amendment 2 would lower income tax rates in Louisiana in exchange for eliminating the deduction for federal income tax payments, a requirement that only one other state in the US has. This would lower the maximum income tax rate in Louisiana from 6% to 4.25%, with other tiers lowering as well. In addition, corporate income taxes are reduced across the board, and the "franchise tax" (on retained earnings and investment capital) is significantly reduced or eliminated (in many cases). One reason for this is that whenever the federal government changes its deductions it has an effect on state income. This would make revenue more predictable while lowering the taxes for most folks and make them simpler for everyone. (I'm voting YES because our tax code needs to be simplified and made more fair across the board. This is a good first step in tax reform.)

  • Constitutional Amendment 3 would allow levee districts created since 2006 to raise up to a 5-mill property tax without voter approval. (Districts created prior to 2006 already have this authorization, but the law was changed in 2006 preventing taxing being levied without a vote of the people.)  While flood control is a critical issue in Louisiana, giving any governmental authority the ability to raise taxes without the consent of those taxed is bad public policy, in my opinion. If I recall correctly we fought a war over "taxation without representation" a couple of hundred years ago! (I'm voting NO because I think people should always have the right to vote on any tax that is assessed.)

  • Constitutional Amendment 4 would allow the state to transfer a small amount of money from dedicated funds to fix a shortfall in the state budget. Currently in times of financial crisis the State of LA can only make unrestricted cuts to the general fund, which is why we've seen such drastic cuts in education and healthcare in the last decade. All other "dedicated funds" are protected and can only be cut by 5%, even in times of severe financial shortfall. This amendment would allow the legislature to cut dedicated funds by an additional 5% (for a total of up to 10%) to solve budget problems during periods of financial downturn. Th fact that there are literally dozens, if not hundreds, of constitutionally protected funds essentially ties the hands of the legislature when cuts are needed. This would allow cuts to be spread across all of government rather than just healthcare and higher education. (I'm voting YES because we can't afford to keep cutting healthcare and higher education in times of financial hardship - all of government should be able to share the load together.)
Well, there you have it! Whether you agree with me or not, hopefully my explanation helps you understand the four amendments you'll be asked to vote on this weekend. By the way, there are a few special elections in the area to fill vacant seats, such Rapides Parish Police Jury District I, vacated by the death of Scott Perry and Alexandria City Council District 4, vacated by the retirement of 99-year-old Harry Silver. If you live in those districts you'll be given the opportunity to select who will serve out those unfulfilled terms. You can find your sample ballot by going to the GeauxVote website.

I hope this is helpful! I would love to hear your thoughts on the amendments, even if you disagree with me! And whether we agree or not, don't forget to vote on Saturday!!!