A guide to the 2021 constitutional amendments

A guide to the 2021 constitutional amendments

Louisiana voters will make important decisions about the state’s tax structure when they head to the polls in mid-November. Included among the four constitutional amendments on the Nov. 13th ballot are a proposal to overhaul how the state and localities collect sales taxes, and a complex restructuring of how Louisiana families and corporations pay income and franchise taxes.  A new report by the Louisiana Budget Project breaks down the four amendments and explains how Amendment 2 would help cement the status quo, making it harder in future years for Louisiana to make sorely needed investments in its people.

The tax swap plan was billed as “revenue neutral,” meaning overall tax collections would not change. In fact, it would reduce tax revenue by $27 million a year, which means the state would have less money available to pay its teachers, train workers for new jobs or maintain public safety. … By capping the top income-tax rate in the state constitution, Amendment 2 would make it harder in future years to make the kind of fundamental changes that could truly move Louisiana forward.

Join the Louisiana Budget Project and the Power Coalition for Equity and Justice TONIGHT at 6 p.m. to learn more about these amendments. Click here to register for the event. Click here to read LBP’s analysis of Amendment 2, and why the tax swap package on the ballot is not tax reform. 

Louisiana needs a second minority district 
A group of civil rights and advocacy organizations, including LBP, is calling on the Legislature to comply with federal requirements that racial minorities have equal opportunity “to participate in the electoral process and to elect representatives of their choice” when they redraw Louisiana’s congressional district maps. The solution: legislators should create a second Black-majority congressional district. As the letter points out, the current congressional map does not accurately represent the makeup of voters in the state; while Black Louisianans make up about one-third of the state’s population, only one of the state’s six districts is majority-Black. The Advocate’s Mark Ballard reports

“The state has had only four Black Congresspeople since Reconstruction,” the letter said. “This is a direct consequence of the configuration of Louisiana’s congressional districts: Black voters are packed into District 2, the state’s only majority-minority opportunity district, and Black communities are cracked among the state’s five majority-white districts (Districts 1, 3, 4, 5, 6).” The majority White congressional districts have never elected a Black candidate. Since 1965, when the Voting Rights Act passed, Louisiana voters have sent 45 Whites to Congress.

Click here to read the full letter

Filling up the piggy bank 
For the first time, Louisiana will deposit money into a five-year-old trust fund set up to stabilize the state’s unpredictable budget cycles. The Stabilization Trust Fund, which voters approved in 2016, takes portions of the state’s oil and gas revenue and corporate taxes when those collections are higher than anticipated and deposits them into a trust. The AP’s Melinda Deslatte explains how the trust fund works—including a workaround for lawmakers who want to cash out early. 

Under the constitutional provision enacted by voters, if the state receives corporate tax collections above $600 million annually, any additional dollars are socked away in the trust fund. A portion of any oil and gas revenue above $660 million each year also will flow into the account. … Once the fund reaches $5 billion, up to 10% can be spent on construction projects and roadwork. It’s likely to be many years before Louisiana fills up the trust fund to the level that allows lawmakers to spend any of the cash. But the law setting up the mechanics of the trust fund also allows lawmakers, by a two-thirds vote, to use the money in an undefined emergency.

Ida help still slow in coming 
The second-ranking House leader says Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration has been too slow to provide trailers and other temporary housing for people who lost their homes due to Hurricane Ida. Rep. Tanner Magee of Houma cited a lack of communication from the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Jim Waskom in the aftermath of the storm. Gannett’s Greg Hilburn reports

Magee said when people apply for the program they get no response as to whether their application has been received or a time line for when they may receive a trailer. “Last week I probably got a hundred calls from people who filled out an application and haven’t heard anything back at all,” he said. “It’s not acceptable.” Magee, who said he and Waskom had cross words in their only telephone conversation, said when he asked another GOHSEP official why people couldn’t get an immediate response from APTIM he was told, “We’ll look into it.” “That was a week ago,” Magee said. “It’s crazy to leave people in the dark like this.”

Number of the Day
– Number of working adults with children in Louisiana that would benefit each year from permanently extending the American Rescue Plan’s Earned Income Tax Credit expansion, relative to before the plan’s temporary expansion. (Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)