As a general rule, we are reluctant to support amendments to the constitution because a constitution deals with the basic laws of the state and does not deal with specific situations.
In 1974, the state revised its constitution because it was so big that it took several volumes of paper. Every local pet project was plugged into the constitution and it became so large that it couldn’t fit into a red wagon.
Since 1974 we have added 186 amendments, protecting pet projects, special funds and making it extremely difficult to change without a vote of the entire state instead of handling the changes in the legislature.
On October 14, state voters are being asked to add three more amendments to the list.
Here is our assessment of each:
Establish a Property Tax Exemption for Construction Work
We Recommend: – Vote No
This amendment would give a property tax exemption to companies that are building or expanding in the state. While the company is building, taxes would only be collected on the completed parts. This is generally the practice already, but there are few parishes that choose not do it this way which is their right. This amendment will force all parishes to follow the same practice and limit the discretion of local tax assessors. It’s the kind of change that can be done by legislation and should not be in the constitution itself.
Establish a constitutional amendment for surviving spouses
of first responders who died while on duty
We Recommend: – Vote No
Last year a constitutional amendment exempted surviving spouses of National Guard members, state police, law enforcement or fire protection officers who died in the line of duty are exempt from paying any property tax on their primary home. This amendment adds more to the list: first responders, firefighters, emergency medical responders, technicians or paramedics. All of these deserve to be addressed by the state, but the constitution is not the place. Next year, when we think of others, another constitutional amendment will be needed instead of a vote of the legislature. It will never end.
Establish a “Construction Subfund” of the transportation fund
We Recommend:- No
Presently monies collected for fuel taxes is put into a special transportation fund and used to repair roads and bridges and the associated administrative costs. This amendment wants to create a “subfund” to hold fuel tax dollars and block administrative costs, making more money available for projects and blocking funds for Transportation Department and State Police, salaries and wages. This is an action that can be accomplished by acts of the legislature and does not rise to the level of requiring a change to the state’s constitution.