The views of this newspaper’s editorial board on the constitutional amendments and statewide propositions are presented yesterday and today. We encourage voters to study the issues and cast an informed ballot on Nov. 3, or earlier, as early voting starts Oct. 16.
Amendment 5: corporate tax payments — No
If you’re a politician, you want to spend as much money as you can for four years, to get reelected. That’s the kind of short-term thinking that underlies the “payments in lieu of taxes,” or PILOT proposals like this one.
Corporate interests would be delighted to trade cash upfront to shed long-term obligations like property taxes, and local politicians will be easy marks for these deals. We believe the long-term commitment of property taxes for community services will serve Louisiana better. Louisiana is a heavy spender in property tax breaks for large companies through industrial tax exemptions; there is no need to add another layer of “incentives,” if those actually are driving business location decisions, which may be doubted.
Amendment 6: property tax exemption income — No
Legislatures past, as well as the voters, approved many special homestead property tax exemptions for deserving and politically popular constituencies — the elderly, disabled veterans and so on. These are easy for lawmakers to vote for because the money they are giving away is from local government. In addition to the homestead exemption, property assessments are frozen and do not increase.
There is, though, an income limit for getting the special homestead exemptions — originally $50,000, now up to $77,000, indexed for inflation. Legislators propose raising that to $100,000. Is this necessary when it is already rising with inflation? This is political, a nod to the wealthiest retiree households who can pay their property taxes, which in Louisiana are small bills compared to those in most every other state.
Amendment 7: unclaimed property fund — Yes
This amendment marks a compromise between Gov. John Bel Edwards and state Treasurer John Schroder, who faced off in court on payouts to the state general fund from unused cash in the long-existing unclaimed property fund. While there is a small cost to the state general fund, ultimately Schroder's department will be better able to manage the distribution of unclaimed money with a new trust fund established by the amendment.
Amendment 8: Sports wagering — Yes
This proposition is on every parish ballot allows sports betting, under rules to be established by the Legislature and the Gaming Control Board. As with fantasy sports games, approved by 47 of 64 parishes in 2018, each parish must approve the wagering in gaming establishments in that locale. Sports wagering was approved in Mississippi, and while it is not a big revenue booster, there is no reason to have Louisiana gamblers take their business elsewhere.