By Bonnie Culverhouse
Even though the Oct. 9 election has been rescheduled to Nov. 13, the Webster Parish Journal, with the aid of Public Affairs Research Council (PAR) of Louisiana and District 10 State Rep. Wayne McMahen, will continue to study the Constitutional Amendments that will be on the ballot.
Last month, Amendments 1 and 2 were the focus.
Amendment 3 would affect the taxing authority of levee districts, which mostly affects areas of South Louisiana. It is, however, a statewide election.
A vote FOR would allow the boards of the levee districts created since 2006 to raise up to a 5-mill property tax without voter approval.
A vote AGAINST would continue to allow levee districts to get voter approval for any tax millage.
“It has to go to the ballot now,” McMahen said. “It’s been a catastrophic couple of years, and when you need help, you need it then, not next year.”
McMahen said the levee districts have been at 5 mills since the 1800s.
“While districts can supplement this funding, it takes voter approval now,” he said. “But if something happens, by the time they get an election in place, the problem has been going on for a while.
“They are asking to be able to raise 5 mills more added to the 5 that are already there without voter approval,” he added.
“The argument against is to let the people decide, and the districts should have to make the case for constituents to vote taxes in,” McMahen continued. “If the districts lack the funds to get started, they can only rely on private fundraising or other government entities until they can get something passed.”
McMahen said he talked with representatives from the South Louisiana districts, and they feel it would be advantageous to be able to raise the funding on an as-needed basis.
Amendment 4 is for tapping more dedicated money to fix a deficit.
A vote FOR would allow the transfer of more dedicated funds to fix a state budget deficit.
A vote AGAINST would keep the current 5 percent limit for tapping dedications to fix a deficit.
McMahen said this amendment will affect the entire state.
“We have a 43 billion dollar budget, but there’s only 9 or 10 billion that we have control over,” he said. “The rest is either federal money or statutory dedicated money. We have a small pool of money to pull from to fix any deficits.”
Amendment 4 would allow the state to tap into those dedicated funds in the event of a deficit.
“The amendment would increase the amount that can be tapped from these dedicated sources,” McMahen said. “You can already get 5 percent, but they are asking to raise it to 10 percent.”
McMahen said a lot of dedicated money is not depleted each year.
“We go in and look where there are surpluses in these dedicated funds, and where the money is not being used. They will take the money that is allocated for 2020 and move it where needed,” he said. “They (joint Legislative budget committee) can’t go in and just pull something out that will stop a project.”