What’s Up with the Amendments? A Close Look at Constitutional Amendment #2

This year there are eight constitutional amendments on the November 8 ballot. Some are a bit complicated, and all require a little homework before you cast your vote. To assist, we’re breaking the list into bite-size chunks. Leading up to the start of early voting on October 25, we will highlight one amendment every few days to give you the background and context you need to understand what they do. And for lagniappe, we offer CABL’s recommendations on each of them.   

Amendment #2  Provide Additional Property Tax Exemptions to Disabled Veterans

What It Does: Exempts veterans who are totally disabled because of their military service from local property taxes and provides new exemptions for other veterans based on the degree of their disability.

Background: In recent years, lawmakers and voters have been creating new property tax exemptions for the spouses of public safety and military personnel killed in the line of duty and some disabled veterans with service-related injuries.

Today in some parishes, a disabled veteran with a disability rating of 100%, as recognized by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, can receive a property tax exemption of $150,000. That basically doubles the current Homestead Exemption which is valued at $75,000.

This amendment takes that further, waiving all parish property taxes across the state for veterans with a 100% disability rating and providing veterans with lesser disabilities an added measure of property tax relief that they do not now have.

These exemptions also apply to the surviving spouse of a veteran who had qualified regardless of whether the exemptions were in effect when the veteran died. The amendment also stipulates that the decrease in property taxes that will result from passage of this amendment will be absorbed by the local taxing authority and will not create any additional tax liability for other taxpayers.

Comments: Supporters of this amendment have made it clear one of their goals is to make Louisiana one of the most veteran-friendly states in the country. With a significant military presence in Louisiana encompassing Barksdale Air Force Base, Fort Polk, the Naval Air Station at Belle Chasse, and the Louisiana National Guard, the state is home to many veterans both from Louisiana and those who have served here. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates about 55,000 of them have some sort of service-connected disability.

CABL certainly supports our disabled veterans, and we, too, would like to see Louisiana as a place that retired veterans, whether disabled or not, would like to call home. But over the years there has been a proliferation of amendments, all well-intended, that continue to erode the tax base of local governments. While most are relatively narrow, they add up. And as they reduce the revenues available to provide local service, they increase the likelihood that local governments will turn to the state for additional support. That’s not the scenario we are trying to achieve.

Property taxes are local taxes, and we would prefer to see local voters making local decisions about the tax breaks they provide to various groups of citizens. For example, in some areas that are close to military installations, they might want to provide even more tax incentives for veterans to stay. But they can’t do that because the constitution does not allow it. Of note is the fact that the current tax exemption for disabled veterans that was placed in the constitution several years ago requires a local vote of the people. This one does not.

Historically, we have often opposed state efforts to pass amendments to erode the local tax base. We remain wary of this continuing trend, no matter how well intended, but we value the service and efforts of our veterans and believe this is an issue best left to voters to decide.

CABL Recommendation: NO POSITION

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