Once again, Louisiana voters are being asked to approve changes to the state’s constitution.
And as so often, several of the amendments reflect a dismaying trend of writing into the fundamental law a series of changes that in most states would be handled through ordinary legislative action.
Here are our recommendations on three of the amendments before voters. Early voting begins Tuesday for a week, and Election Day is on Nov. 6.
Typically, state elections are on a Saturday, but because there are races for U.S. Congress on the ballot, federal law requires that our election line up with the national balloting that day.
We encourage voters to look at the issues and cast an informed ballot on these amendments.
Amendment 4. Transportation Trust Fund. Yes.
Transportation funding, or the lack thereof, is a critical problem facing the state. Because of a shortage of political will in the Legislature, needed increases in fuel taxes have been blocked for decades.
One argument against future road funding is that in recent years governors and legislators have dipped into the Transportation Trust Fund to pay for operating expenses of Louisiana State Police.
While traffic patrol was originally included as a legitimate expense in the original conception of the TTF, it was abused to siphon money out of the road funds and into the general fund.
This bad practice has been corrected by the Legislature in the administration of Gov. John Bel Edwards, but concern about the precedent inspires this amendment.
We urge voters to approve it, even if the problem has been corrected in the statute books anyway. One day, perhaps, when the state takes a more realistic look at transportation funding issues, this amendment will take away an excuse for political dodging of the real issues.
Amendment 5. Property tax break. No
When it comes to giving away local governments’ money, legislators are skilled. They have proposed, and voters have approved — unwisely in our view — many property tax and homestead exemption breaks for politically popular causes or groups, including the elderly and military veterans and on and on.
This amendment continues a bad practice by providing that those with homes in trust — of which there are few — would keep the tax breaks while residing at the homestead. It will affect few people, but picking out special groups for privileges violates the economic principle that everyone should pay into the day-to-day costs of services in local government.
Amendment 6. Tax assessments. No
The amendment is aimed at preventing sharp increases in property tax assessments for homes. It would require that the changes be phased in over four years, in cases where the value of the property for tax purposes rises more than 50 percent.
We question the crafting of this amendment, because it once again creates a special class of homeowner who might live next door to another whose assessment rose by some other percentage, but gets no break.
Louisiana is not a high property tax state. Rising assessments mean more value for property, either residential or commercial. And once again, legislators show how deft they are in finding ways to give away local governments’ money.