The Hayride’s Guide To The Three Constitutional Amendments On Saturday’s Ballot

We were going to get to these last week in time for early voting, but just like most of our readers we’re struggling with a crisis of caring about this election. And since only 92,000 people out of just under 3 million registered voters have cast ballots so far, it seems like it’s OK to wait until today to deal with the constitutional amendments on the ballot.

Mercifully, this year there are only three amendments. Perhaps the state legislature is starting to get the message not to deluge the voters with decisions that we hire them to make, and perhaps they’re doing their jobs a little more thoroughly nowadays. Three amendments is manageable.

So here goes.

CA NO. 1 (Act 428 – SB 140) – Exemption of property taxes for construction sites

This a rarity among constitutional amendments; namely, one we like. While it’s something of a solution in search of a problem, it’s a prophylactic measure that gets ahead of what’s sure to be the next effort by money-grubbing politicians attempting to squeeze property owners for every last penny. Essentially, what this amendment does is bar local governments from levying property taxes on lots under construction and not yet in use.

We need this, because right now there is nothing stopping an assessor with dollar signs in his eyes from seeing a subdivision or chemical plant going up and jumping in with an assessment of the land’s future value in order to earn a quick buck. And the minute something like that happens, it will scare off real estate developers and industrial construction.

This sets a standard which avoids those kinds of abuses and removes uncertainty. It will promote economic growth over time, so it deserves to pass. Vote yes on this one.

CA NO. 2 (Act 427 – HB 145) – Homestead exemption for unmarried surviving spouse

Let’s remember that Louisiana has the highest homestead exemption in the country at $75,000, which is a popular but incredibly stupid policy making for a bad balance between state and local governments. We discussed this a little a couple of weeks ago in terms of construction projects after John Schroder brought up the subject – one effect of that bad balance is that, for example, the state collects a bunch of tax money in St. Tammany Parish from income and sales taxes paid there, and then legislators from St. Tammany get to show up at the state capitol begging for road improvements the governor will hold hostage to his agenda. This plays out in lots of other areas as well – coastal management, K-12 education funding, supplemental pay for cops and firemen, and so on.

Meanwhile, in Texas the counties build roads based on local property taxes and the roads there are a million times better than here. That’s what you get when you exempt $75,000 in homestead value from property tax and all the money goes to the state – you get crappy services from government in comparison to Texas.

So, on to this amendment which seeks to make that problem worse. What it does is give the widows and widowers of┬ávolunteer firefighters, emergency medical responders, technicians or paramedics dying on duty a permanent homestead exemption. That’s really nice and really generous of all of us, but putting this in the state constitution is completely idiotic – if the voters in Jeff Davis or Webster Parish want to choose such a policy, let them do it. On a statewide level, and in the constitution, all this does is dirty up the law.

It doesn’t mean you don’t care about the surviving spouses of EMT’s who get killed on the job to vote no. We have life insurance policies for things like this, and for the real sob stories there’s always GoFundMe. Otherwise, let’s try not to do any more damage to the property tax rolls than we’ve already done. Vote no, and with gusto.

CA NO. 3 (Act 429 – HB 354) – Dedicate any new taxes (gas) into the Construction Subfund

Keep pressing the “no” button on this until you break the machine. As with the never-ending attempts to make the homestead exemption problem worse, the geniuses in the legislature keep putting things on the ballot to tie up the state’s revenues in dedicated funds – making the deficit in the general fund worse and worse.

It’s time to put an end to that, not continue it or add to the problem.

What this amendment would do is lock up any gas tax increase in a dedicated fund that would build or maintain road projects, and while that sounds nice we already know it doesn’t work in the real world. We already know DOTD, who would administer this fund, ties somewhere between 60 and 89 percent of all the money it gets up in overhead and only a pittance actually goes into roads. We already know we ought to be giving local governments more power and responsibility for roads since the state does such a crappy job with them and we already know money is fungible; you can dedicate money to roads all you want but the governor and the legislature will raid the general fund appropriation to DOTD to solve a budget deficit when they want to.

And anybody from this administration who tells you that they’ll be using tax increases to make things better – Honest, This Time! – is just lying. If they were serious about such claims they’d be trying to squeeze the fat out of state spending and apply it to roads before demanding tax increases, and they aren’t.

This amendment is intended to lubricate you for a tax increase in a future legislative session. Just say no.

So to recap on these three amendments – vote yes on the first one, and kill the other two as fast as you can.

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