Amendments

34

Louisiana voters will be asked in the Oct. 14 elections to make decisions on proposed constitutional amendments. The charter has already been modified 186 times since it was enacted in 1974, and the three proposals on this year’s ballot should also be added. The first proposal would establish an exemption from local property taxes for building materials and supplies that have been delivered to commercial or residential construction sites. Property and land would remain on tax rolls during the construction process. This recommended change to the state charter seems like a no-brainer. Buildings are subject to local property taxes when they are completed, but taxes have never been imposed in Louisiana on materials already purchased and at construction sites. There are taxes, obviously, on lumber and other supplies when the materials are bought, but the proposed amendment would keep local governments from continuing to tax construction materials while structures are being completed. The impetus for the amendment, apparently, was a plan by a tax assessor in Cameron Parish to assess ongoing property taxes on some of the materials being used to build a $20 billion natural gas export facility in that area. Voters approved an amendment last year to provide complete exemption from property taxes for spouses of some first responders killed in the line of duty. Proposition No. 2 would expand that exemption to some personnel not included in that amendment. The amendment added in 2016 provided exemptions for spouses of military, law enforcement or fire protection personnel who die in the line of duty. The amendment expanded the normal Homestead Exemption of $75,000 to cover the total cost of property taxes. Under the new proposal, the existing exemption for spouses of first responders would be extended to include emergency medical personnel, technicians and paramedics, volunteer firefighters and some responders not included last year because of length of service. It is logical and important to expand exemptions to spouses of first responders to include those that would be covered by this year’s proposed amendment. Approval of the third proposition would create a fund within the state’s Transportation Trust Fund that could be used only for direct costs of infrastructure construction and maintenance projects. Louisiana obviously needs a fund for infrastructure upgrades that can be used for no other purpose. The proposed amendment would assure the proper use of new gas tax income or other funds that might become available for road and bridge improvements.