The nonpartisan Council for a Better Louisiana supports two proposed state constitutional amendments on the Oct. 14 ballot and has taken no position on the other.
CABL supports the first proposed amendment, which is for a property tax exemption for projects under construction. It would apply to commercial and residential sites.
Although new construction has, traditionally, been exempt from property taxes until work is completed, the state Constitution is silent on the issue, the council says.
"Companies continue to make billions of dollars in industrial investments in Louisiana under the assumption that there is no property tax to pay on their construction materials," the council says. "Some of these projects can take years to complete, and a property tax on construction materials could cost them hundreds of millions of dollars."
CABL says without the amendment, it could be more difficult to bring new companies and projects into the state.
According to the independent Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, which examined both sides of each amendment, opponents of the first proposal could argue it would take away assessors' flexibility to handle individual situations.
"Businesses get too many tax breaks, and this would be another one," is another opposing view, according to PAR. "Large manufacturing projects already can use the Industrial Tax Exemption Program to avoid property taxes for as many as 10 years. Local governments might need to tax construction work to pay for the increased services that will be needed once the new facility is completed."
CABL takes no position on the second proposed amendment, which is for a property tax exemption for surviving spouses of first responders killed in the line of duty. It adds certain groups – volunteer firefighters, emergency medical responders, technicians and paramedics – to an amendment passed last year.
"CABL totally supports all of our first responders who risk their lives to protect us all," the council says. "They provide a tremendous service to our state. This amendment seeks to provide a significant level of tax relief to the spouse of one of these public service officers who is killed in the line of duty, and the intent of that is admirable."
However, CABL says the state's tax code provides so many exemptions it sometimes hinders the ability to raise enough money, leading to higher rates for those not included in the exemptions.
"It is true that this exemption is relatively small in the scheme of things and its impact would likely be minimal," the council says. "Nevertheless, it should be noted that as we continue to add more exemptions to our tax laws, the costs to other taxpayers do begin to add up."
CABL supports the third proposed amendment, which would create a "construction subfund" in the Transportation Trust Fund to use money from any new gasoline tax for transportation and infrastructure.
"In recent years, there has been a growing understanding that Louisiana's current 20-cent per gallon gasoline tax is no longer adequate to meet the state's ongoing infrastructure needs and at some point lawmakers must seriously consider an increase in that tax," the council says. It adds, "The debate about raising gasoline taxes to meet critical infrastructure needs is not going away, and there will likely be no change in those taxes unless this amendment, or something like it, is approved by the voters."
According to PAR, opponents of the proposal could argue the Legislature and administration would still be able to move money around during the budget process to meet priorities.
"This amendment is a symbolic gesture that does nothing to improve the poor condition of the state's transportation system," is another opposing viewpoint, according to PAR.
A full guide to the pros and cons of each proposed amendment is available at parlouisiana.org.
The deadline to register at geauxvote.com is Sept. 23 for this election.
Early voting runs from Sept. 30 through Oct. 7.
Residents can cast ballots from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day except Sunday at the Registrar of Voters' offices in each parish. Terrebonne's office is in the Government Tower, 8026 Main St., Suite 101, Houma, and Lafourche's offices are at 307 W. Fourth St., Thibodaux, and 16241 E. Main St., Suite B-23, Galliano.
For polling places, district information and sample ballots, visit geauxvote.com.
-- Staff Writer Bridget Mire can be reached at 448-7639 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @bridget_mire.