State Treasurer John Kennedy is proposing a constitutional change in the wake of legislators approving nearly $400 million in taxes without the required two-thirds vote.
Legislative leaders ruled that a majority vote would suffice on many of the revenue raisers approved in the 2015 session to help fill a $1.6 bilion budget hole.
But Kennedy said if they are right the state constitution needs amending to clearly delineate the intent of its drafters and the voters who approved it.
“If you go back and look at the Constitutional Convention records from 1973, not just floor debate, but committee debate….I think it’s very clear they intended the two-thirds vote to apply to all tax matters,” Kennedy said. “There’s no discussion I can find that they split hairs. It’s all tax matters.”
“It was the intent of drafters and you have got to believe it was the intent of voters,” he said.
Kennedy said all laws are presumed constitutional and it may be that the court rules in favor of the Legislature on the required vote.
“If that happens I think we ought to revisit the constitution… to make it clear that a two-thirds vote is required whenever the Legislature votes in any fashion to take more money out of taxpayers’ pockets,” Kennedy said. “Period, no exception.”
He’ll have to get a legislator to file a proposed constitutional amendment to accomplish the change and that too requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature. It would also require a vote of the people.
The Louisiana Chemical Association is in court challenging House Concurrent Resolution 8 which suspends an exemption for a year on 1 percent of the sales tax on business utitlities. That translates into businesses paying more for their utilities. The LCA claims the measure did not get the required two-thirds constitutional vote.
Louisiana Association of Business and Industry President Stephen Waguespack had predicted court challenges as the Legislature ignored the two-thirds vote. He said legislators “reduced tax credits and exemptions by only a majority vote … which is a risky maneuver considering the Constitution explicitly requires a two-thirds vote to raise taxes and to repeal tax exemptions.”
Kennedy’s written a column on the issue.