Louisiana lawmakers to consider constitutional amendments involving homestead exemption, tax breaks, transportation spending

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

Louisiana’s constitution has been amended more than 300 times since it was adopted in 1974, so it’s no surprise state legislators have proposed close to two dozen amendments to be considered at this year’s session, which begins March 9.

This year’s session is non-fiscal, meaning lawmakers cannot raise state taxes. However, several potential amendments related to taxes and government spending have been proposed.

House Bill 206 by Rep. Stephanie Hilferty, a Metairie Republican, would allow local governments with voter approval to more than triple the value of the state’s homestead exemption in their areas.

Louisiana exempts from property taxes the first $75,000 of a home’s market value, or the first $7,500 of assessed value. If you own your primary residence and it is worth $75,000 or less, you pay no property taxes on that home.

Hilferty’s bill would allow voters to raise the exemption as high as $25,000 of the assessed value. It would require an increase in the property tax rate proportionate to the exemption increase to ensure the same amount of revenue to taxing authorities.

Under Senate Bill 207 by Sen. Gary Smith, D-Norco, taxing bodies would be able to raise property tax rates more than is allowed now following reassessment or a change in the homestead exemption. Today, millages are adjusted automatically so that taxing authorities collect the same amount.

However, the current constitution allows for a millage increase up to the prior year’s maximum without a public vote if at least two-thirds of a taxing authority’s governing board agree to do so. Smith’s proposal would let taxing authorities increase the rate up to any previous maximum authorized millage rate.

Senate Bill 187 by Sen. Bodi White, R-Baton Rouge, would give the legislature some authority over the state’s controversial property tax exemption for manufacturers, which is currently controlled by the governor and the state Board of Commerce and Industry.

Gov. John Bel Edwards recently gave local governments that would give up tax dollars under the program a say in which companies get the exemption, which critics say has made the program confusing, unpredictable and less useful to companies considering investing in Louisiana. White’s bill would allow the legislature to establish uniform procedures for the program by law.

Senate Bill 141 by Sen. Rick Ward, R-Baton Rouge, would increase the amount of severance tax money derived from natural resource extraction that would go back to parishes where the production occurred. Parishes would be required to dedicate new dollars to transportation, such as upgrading local roads and bridges.

House Bill 20 by Rep. Rodney Schamerhorn, R-Hornbeck, would ban the use of public funds to pay for retirement and health benefits of elected officials who are elected next year or later.

Friday is the deadline to pre-file bills for the legislative session that begins March 9. Legislators can file up to five bills each during the session.