Oct. 24: Those constitutional amendments

Oct. 24: Those constitutional amendments

Louisiana is the only state in the country where a two-thirds vote of the state Legislature is required before public colleges can raise tuition.

Louisiana is the only state in the country where a two-thirds vote of the state Legislature is required before public colleges can raise tuition. It’s one of the main reasons why higher education in the Pelican State, despite its many challenges, remains a relative bargain compared to other states. But The Advocate’s editorial board says it’s time to lift this restriction, and has come out in favor of a constitutional amendment that would do just that.

We do not see this as a license to raise tuition. There is a natural limit on college prices, and that is the marketplace of students and their families. Just as the market will prevent a business from charging more than its customers can afford, so colleges will be looking at their students’ ability to pay. The Legislature, and the governor through appointments to the colleges’ boards, have plenty of influence without requiring university leaders to go hat-in-hand for a difficult two-thirds vote over every tuition increase.

The tuition amendment is one of six statewide propositions on the Nov. 8 ballot. Others include a proposal to eliminate the ability of corporations to deduct their federal income tax liability on state returns (and would trigger creation of a 6.5 percent single corporate tax rate), a plan to divert future energy-related budget windfalls into a new rainy-day fund, and an amendment that would make it easier to raid dedicated funds when the state faces financial hardships. The Advocate weighs in on those amendments this morning.

For a comprehensive overview of all six amendments, the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana has a helpful guide that explains the pros and cons of each ballot measure.


LGBT protections are good for business
As tensions escalate between Gov. John Bel Edwards and Attorney General Jeff Landry over issues that include workplace protections for gay, lesbian and transgender Louisianans, two New Orleans-area business leaders remind us that such measures are good for business. Writing for Nola.com/The Times-Picayune, Stephen Perry and Michael Hecht note:

New Orleans is known for its diversity, tolerance and inclusiveness. These traits attract people to live, work and play in a culture that embraces them. These traits are also money makers.  Simple economics dictate that businesses want access to the best employees and the broadest markets for customers. … For these reasons, Louisiana companies, from IBM to Marriott, have adopted employment practices that support LGBT workers and appeal to a public that expects tolerance, inclusiveness and diversity as business values. These values benefit our families, businesses and economy and fulfill the basic principles of Judeo-Christian culture. Moreover, they also give us advantages over markets that don’t value them.  Look no further than the NBA’s decision to move the 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte to New Orleans for proof.

The T-P’s Julie O’Donoghue writes that while Landry and Edwards are at loggerheads, Louisiana is far from joining states like North Carolina that have chased away business through discriminatory laws.

Edwards and Landry may be fighting over LGBT rights, but the Louisiana Legislature has rejected all anti-LGBT legislation over the past two years. There was a Louisiana bill with transgender bathroom restrictions filed by state Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Spring, this year. But she pulled the legislation before it ever came up for discussion. Other measures that upset the LGBT community were also killed.


Panel recommends scrapping inventory tax
The blue-ribbon panel that’s set to make recommendations about Louisiana’s tax structure has recommended phasing out a property tax that companies pay on business inventories – along with a corresponding tax credit that costs the state hundreds of millions of dollars per year. The recommendation was one of the final major issues to be resolved by the task force, whose plan is due Nov. 1. The Advocate’s Elizabeth Crisp reports:

“I think we’re getting toward a consensus and the consensus is that we need to phase down the tax at the local level,” Sheffrin, a member of the task force, said during Friday’s meeting. The inventory tax credit costs the state between $400 million and $500 million annually, Revenue Secretary Kimberly Robinson said. That cost, she said, is one of the “prime drivers” for eliminating the tax. The task force agreed on Friday that it will recommend that the Legislature propose a Constitutional amendment, which will be put to a statewide vote, that would gradually eliminate the inventory tax in Louisiana over 10 years, while eliminating the state-backed tax credit over five years.


The benefits of public housing
Public housing projects have a bad reputation in the public’s imagination and federal funding has been down since 2010. But new research from the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that children who grow up in public housing may be better off financially as adults than comparably poor children who don’t. Max Ehrenfreund of The Washington Post explains:

For all their flaws, housing projects can have remarkable positive effects on the children who grow up in them, researchers conclude in a paper published by the nonpartisan National Bureau of Economic Research. Children who spend more time in public housing will earn hundreds of dollars more each year than they would have if their parents had not received housing assistance from the government during those years. Children who benefit from public housing are also less likely to be imprisoned, according to the data.


Number of the Day
50 percent – Growth in the cost of the inventory tax credit from 2007 to 2014. The credit is used to reimburse businesses for property taxes paid at the local level (Source: Louisiana Legislative Auditor)