BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana voters have a lighter load this fall, with only three constitutional changes up for consideration compared to some years when a dozen or more amendment proposals appeared on the ballot.
The three amendments to be decided in the Oct. 14 election still might take some study, though, since they deal with property taxes and transportation spending.
Early voting in the election begins Saturday.
The first amendment on the ballot would specify how tax assessors should deal with construction sites when it comes to calculating property taxes. The proposal would create a property tax break for all property delivered to a construction site for use in building industrial plants, companies and houses.
Tax assessors have traditionally not put new construction on the property tax rolls until the building or other structure was complete. But questions have been raised about whether the taxes could be charged on the large industrial projects that take years to build.
In southwest Louisiana’s Cameron Parish, the assessor is seeking to charge property taxes on the constructional materials used to build a $20 billion liquefied natural gas facility, prompting a lawsuit, the Council for A Better Louisiana said in its review of the amendments.
The next amendment would expand a property tax break added to the books last year that exempts the surviving spouses of military personnel, police officers or firefighters killed in the line of duty from having to pay local property taxes on their homes.
The proposal would add the surviving spouses of more first responders who die on the job, including emergency medical technicians, paramedics, volunteer firefighters and those military personnel and law enforcement officers on the job for less than a year.
The final amendment would direct how future fuel tax revenue can be spent.
The money from any new tax levied on gasoline, diesel or other motor fuels would have to flow into a protected fund, to be spent on direct costs associated with construction and maintenance of roads, bridges and other transportation projects. The dollars would be prohibited from paying for state employee salaries or benefits in the transportation department.
An effort to raise the gas tax earlier this year failed to win support from lawmakers.
TOO MANY AMENDMENTS?
The Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana has a nonpartisan guide to the amendments online, with more details about each proposal.
The research organization has tracked amendments to Louisiana’s constitution for decades. It says that since the latest constitution took effect in 1974, it has been amended 186 times.
State lawmakers, particularly in the Louisiana House, have discussed the idea of a constitutional convention — largely aimed at rewriting the document’s budget and tax provisions — but the idea hasn’t gained enough support for the calling of a convention.
Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte