American Press endorsements: Yes on Amendment 1;  no position on No. 2

Published 9:39 am Friday, October 21, 2022

Louisiana voters on Nov. 8 are being asked to decide the fate of eight proposed amendments to the state constitution. Those amendments have been discussed by both the Public Affairs Research Council (PAR)  and the Council for a Better Louisiana (CABL).

PAR’s “Guide to the 2022 Constitutional Amendments” doesn’t make recommendations about how to vote but offers analysis and provides arguments of supporters and opponents of each proposal. CABL also analyzes the amendments and offers recommendations on each one.

Approval of Amendment 1 would allow the state to increase to 65 percent the maximum amount of money in seven different trust funds that can be invested on the stock market. Louisiana has about $3.4 billion in the seven trust funds.

Email newsletter signup

The seven funds are the Louisiana Education Quality Trust Fund, the Millennium Trust Fund, the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge Trust and Protection Fund, the Russell Sage or Marsh Island Refuge Fund, the Artificial Reef Development Fund, the Lifetime License Endowment Trust Fund, and the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly.

Most of the trust funds since their inception have been able to invest no more than 35 percent of their holdings in stocks. Increasing the investments could generate more earnings over the long-term to benefit health, education, wildlife, and other state programs.

The argument against the amendment is that investing in the stock market is volatile even in the best of times and there are other investments that are more secure.

CABL supports the amendment. It says passage of the amendment would align investment from these funds with the investment practices of state retirement systems that have been extremely successful. Many large funds managed by state treasurers in other states do invest higher percentages in stocks, the agency said.

We agree with CABL that investing more in the stock market will produce better earnings as proven by retirement systems. The state treasurer will be able to take advantage of market conditions and adapt as necessary.

A vote for Amendment 2 would increase the property tax exemption available to veterans with service-related disabilities and to their surviving  spouses. A vote against would maintain the current exemption level.

In some parishes, a disabled veteran with a 100 percent disability rating can receive a property tax exemption of $150,000, double the current $75,000 exemption. This amendment waives all parish property taxes for veterans with a 100 percent disability.

Over the years there has been a proliferation of amendments, all well-intended, CABL said, that continue to erode the tax base of local governments. The state’s property tax is already low, and that has led to increased local sales taxes that make Louisiana’s combined state and local sales tax the highest in the country.

CABL took no position on Amendment 2. However, it said property taxes are local taxes, and it would prefer to see local voters making local decisions about the tax breaks they provide to various groups of citizens.

Like CABL, we value the service and efforts of veterans and believe this is an issue best left to local voters to decide.