October 22 Constitutional Amendments

Thanks to the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana for recently releasing their guide of the pros and cons of each amendment. Below you will find the nolatarian perspective for each. You can view the LA-PAR guide here.

1. Funding TOPS & Sustaining Cigarette Tax Revenue

I will be voting AGAINST this amendment primarily because it places into the state constitution a permanent tax of $0.04 on all cigarette pack sales. Not only do I feel that it is inappropriate to lock a “sin tax” into the constitution, but it is attached to the TOPS funding bill as an attempt to get around the vetoing of a bill by Gov. Jindal that will allow this tax to expire on June 30, 2012. Also, there are 2 problems with this “sin tax.” First, theses taxes traditionally are lousy sources of revenue as evidenced in LA by about a $500,000 a year decrease of funds raised due to declining cigarette sales. Which brings us to the second point; I highly doubt $0.04/pack is enough to keep cigarette users from continuing their habit/vice, so the drop in sales is most likely due to increased education on the dangers of smoking which means the tax is unnecessary anyway. certainly is unnecessary to lock it into the constitution.

2. Reducing the Financial Liability of State Retirement Systems

I will be voting AGAINST this amendment due to the potential for unintended consequences. The legislature already has the flexibility to make extra payments to pay down the UAL, which has been taken advantage of in past years. The main question boils down to your belief of whether the legislature will, when given the opportunity by budget surpluses choose to make extra payments to the UAL instead of other allowable purposes. Also, there’s the possibility that the mandated payment will be viewed similarly as a credit card minimum payment which will not accomplish significant progress in paying down the UAL. Typically, I would not prefer to trust the legislature to pay down the debt instead of use surpluses for other potentially questionable purposes, but in this case I would rather the flexibility remain for effective lawmakers to be creative in maximizing budget surpluses for the greatest budgetary good.

3. Protecting the Patient’s Compensation Fund

I will be voting FOR this amendment. This issue is extremely specific so lets not get wrapped up in the debates surrounding the entirety of the Medical Malpractice suit law. I favor the amendment because it prevents a potential issue of the legislature taking funds for general budget purposes. I would not want to be the patient that finds out the funds that were supposed to be in place to cover my injuries from medical malpractice weren’t there because the legislature needed to cover expenses for some other budgetary need. Again, a worst case scenario, but other states have taken money from these funds in the past.

4. Managing the Budget Stabilization Rainy Day Fund

I will be voting AGAINST this amendment. First, this will allow the Supreme Court to rule on whether a similar statute is constitutional instead of just changing the constitution to fit the statute. Secondly, this will force the legislature to pay back the emergency fund quicker so as to help ensure that the fund is only used for true emergencies.
5. Updating the Census Change in a New Orleans Sales Tax Law

I will be voting FOR this amendment. The old language does need to be updated and the current law already provides a balance that protects the original property owner and concerns by neighbors about “blight” by giving the owner before the auction 3 years after the auction to pay the back taxes and reclaim their property.

A full breakdown of the individual races is coming soon. Stay tuned!!

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