Low voter turnout could sway constitutional amendment decisions

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BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Louisiana voters have four big tax reform measures to vote on in a special election now set to take place in November. But pollsters believe low voter turnout could sway the vote.

State legislators touted their ability to pass tax reform legislation, but now it is up to the voters to approve those changes.

The Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana broke down the amendments to understand what a vote either way would mean.

Amendment 1: Sales Tax Streamlining 

Currently, sales taxes are collected separately by parishes and it is overseen by both the state and local governments. This amendment aims to streamline that process and have one authority overseeing the collection of the tax. If passed, it would create a commission with representatives from state and local agencies. It would also create one single way of tax collection for all taxing authorities. It also would develop rules for audits. The amendment would take effect after the legislature created a bill detailing how the whole process would work.

Amendment 2: Tax Reform

It would lower the maximum rate for income tax, which means it would reduce tax rates the most for big earners. It also would remove deducting federal income tax from state taxes, meaning people pay more in state taxes but their income tax rate will be lower. Currently, Louisiana has the 18th highest income tax rate, this would lower it to 49th.

“The idea is we are simplifying taxes by taking away deductions, giving the change to voters as it were in the form of lower income tax rates,” JMC Analytics Founder John Couvillon said.

Amendment 3: Taxing Authority for New Levee Districts

This would allow levee districts created between Jan. 2006-Oct. 2021 to levy a 5-mill property tax with a vote of the board. It would not affect future levee districts. If passed, it would only be effective in the parishes that voted to approve it.

Amendment 4: Tapping More Dedicated Money to Fix a Deficit

The amendment would allow the state legislature to take more money out of certain programs to fill fiscal gaps during a budget shortfall. It would raise the use of protected funds from 5% to 10%. The move would need the approval of the joint budget committee.

Since the election is being pushed back a month, and tax amendments don’t usually draw big voting crowds, some believe certain regions of the state may lead the vote.

“If you’re in the city of New Orleans you have an additional excuse to go vote, that is all the Orleans Parish specific races there are,” Couvillon said. “So, if Orleans Parish is overwhelmingly one way or another with regards to the amendments, you very much have the ability to impact the outcome of those amendment elections.”

Twenty-four parishes have their own amendments to vote on as well, which will bring in more votes. But the special elections historically have low voter turnout. The open primary is set for November 13. This is a month later than normal due to the impacts of Hurricane Ida.

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