Louisiana’s current state constitution was passed in 1974 and rather than being a limited document that stands the test of time, it already has 197 amendments. Legislators are constantly proposing changes—often represented on the ballot in complicated legalese—that must go before the voters. Of the seven constitutional amendments and one local proposition on the ballot in 2020, two may have an impact on local housing policy and our recommendations are below. For the remaining amendments, we recommend consulting the Louisiana Budget Project’s guide.
NO on Amendment 5: A massive tax giveaway to oil and gas companies
Constitutional Amendment 5 would allow industrial corporations to strike sweetheart deals with local governments to pay less in property taxes than the law would otherwise require. Cameron LNG, a mostly foreign-owned oil and gas company, lobbied hard to put this amendment on the ballot to ensure its $12-$13 billion property in Cameron parish would continue to be almost entirely exempt from property taxes. If taxed like the rest of us, the company would owe $220 million, but it’s fighting to ensure it can continue to pay only $38,000. After soaring property assessments in gentrifying neighborhoods last year, New Orleanians understand that when the wealthy and large corporations don’t pay their fair share, working and middle-class homeowners are forced to pay more. The resulting pressure can force long-time lower-income residents out of their homes and further intensify displacement. It also means less local revenue for important priorities like affordable housing and flood mitigation projects. For these reasons, LaFHAC joins Together Louisiana, General Russell Honoré, the Louisiana Budget Project, and many more organizations in opposing this amendment.
NO on Amendment 6: Extending tax breaks to wealthier homeowners
Constitutional Amendment 6 would allow wealthier homeowners who are 65 years or older to freeze their property tax assessment. Special assessment freezes were created to ensure people on a fixed income don’t lose their home because of increasing taxes and currently apply to people 65 and older, as well as some people with serious disabilities, and surviving spouses of military members killed in action. In order to qualify, households must have an income below $77,030 and this income limit is adjusted up each year with inflation. The median household income for Louisiana families with a householder aged 65 or over is only $30,935 so the $77,030 income limit already protects the vast majority of homeowning seniors. Households earning $78,000-$100,000 don’t need a special tax break. They’re not likely to be at risk of losing their home and can pay taxes like the rest of us. Extending tax cuts to these wealthier homeowners would be particularly irresponsible now when our towns and cities are on the edge of bankruptcy due to COVID-19. LaFHAC has advocated for years for a targeted tax break for low-income homeowners at risk of losing their homes and supported a 2019 constitutional amendment that would have provided that relief had it passed. This amendment falls far short of that goal and we recommend voting NO.