The debate over whether local tax assessors should receive car allowances on top of their salaries appears to have ended in the Louisiana Legislature, with four assessors winning legislative support for the perk before lawmakers put the brakes on similar bills.
Members of the House and Senate filed at least eight bills to grant more than a dozen parish assessors car allowances up to 15 percent of their annual salaries. That’s between about $20,000 and $25,000 a year for the elected officials, who earn six-figure salaries. The measures were House Bills 187, 205, 206, 413, 419 and 1097 and Senate Bills 11 and 370.
State lawmakers approved two bills earlier in the regular legislative session, but they’ve rejected more recent attempts to pass nearly identical measures, with House members raising objections about giving another benefit to assessors during a state economic downturn.
Two bills that reached the governor’s desk would grant the car allowances to assessors in four parishes — Lafayette, Assumption, Iberville and Pointe Coupee. Proposals that would have awarded 13 other parish assessors the same allowance have stalled.
At least four assessors already have car allowances authorized in current law, in Webster, Iberia, Evangeline and Jefferson Davis parishes. The assessors must meet outlined insurance requirements to receive the money.
Bill supporters said they didn’t understand why lawmakers voted to pass some proposals, but not others.
Rep. Rob Shadoin, R-Ruston, has a car allowance bill awaiting full House debate, but he doesn’t intend to bring it to a chamber vote. Proposing it at this point in the session would be nothing but “a great exercise in futility,” he said.
Shadoin said he doesn’t expect to see anyone push for the car allowance bills after what he described as his colleagues’ “great awakening” against the measures.
Supporters said the bills wouldn’t grant raises or create new costs. The allowance, they said, would replace other travel expenses paid to the local assessors and would have to come from the assessors’ own office budgets.
Opposing lawmakers said it would be irresponsible to support raises while embroiled in debate over serious budget issues and amid a statewide economic slump. They noted the allowance would come in addition to a 4 percent pay raise annually awarded to assessors in recent years.
The Lafayette Parish assessor — whose car allowance bill by Rep. Stuart Bishop, R-Lafayette, has reached the governor’s desk — could get a $23,500 or more allowance at the maximum 15 percent under the measure.
That would come on top of a nearly $157,000 salary and an additional 10 percent personal expense allowance that boosts yearly compensation for the assessor to more than $172,000, before the car allowance.