House comes up short on vote to redecide dedicated funding

BATON ROUGE — The House came within nine votes Friday of giving the state’s voters an opportunity to decide whether to undedicate some $900 million that is protected in the constitution and use some of the funds in other areas.

Rep. Rob Shadoin, R-Ruston, is sponsor of House Bill 236, which required 70 votes — or two-thirds — because it was a proposed constitutional amendment. The final tally was 61-32.

If the bill had been successful and voters had decided to undedicate the funds, the revenues would have gone a long way to help erase a $1.3 billion deficit expected July 1, 2018, when temporary taxes in that amount end. One of those is a 1 percent state sales tax that raises nearly $800 million a year.

Shadoin said his bill and a couple of others would solve that problem.

Five Southwest Louisiana House members voted for the legislation: Reps. Mark Abraham, R-Lake Charles; Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur; Stephen Dwight, R-Moss Bluff; A.B. Franklin, D-Lake Charles; and Bob Hensgens, R-Abbeville.

Reps. Dorothy Sue Hill, D-Dry Creek, and Frank Howard, R-Many, were opposed. Rep. James Armes, D-Leesville, was recorded as absent.

Shadoin said voters earlier decided to dedicate those funds and that it was time to give them a chance to reconsider whether the protections should continue. He said residents often talk about too many funds being dedicated.

The funds listed in his legislation: the Louisiana Lottery Proceeds Fund, the TOPS Fund, the Transportation Trust Fund, Louisiana Quality Education Support Fund, the Millennium Leverage Fund, the Higher Education Louisiana Partnership Fund, the Health Excellence Fund, the Education Excellence Fund, the Louisiana Investment Fund for Enhancement, the Mineral Revenue Audit and Settlement Fund, and the Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund.

Those funds that might have been released from protection would have gone into the state general fund. Shadoin said that would give legislators an opportunity to determine where their current priorities lie.

An amendment removed the Coastal Protection and Restoration Fund from the list. Another aimed at deleting the Transportation Trust Fund was rejected. An attempt to remove the fund that provides supplemental pay for local firemen, policemen and other first responders was rejected by a wide margin.

Shadoin told those opposed to including the TOPS Fund that if TOPS is a priority, legislators can fully fund it. He said his bill only removed interest earnings from the funds and that the principals would be protected.

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