Constitutional spending limit do-over falls short in Louisiana Senate

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

The Louisiana Senate turned back a potential constitutional amendment Monday meant to restrain the growth of government spending over time.

Louisiana has a spending limit calculated based on the old limit multiplied by the average personal income growth over the past three years. Because of the compounding effect, the limit rarely comes into play.

House Bill 273 and companion House Bill 276 would strip the current expenditure limit from the Louisiana Constitution and replace it with a more complex formula involving the three-year average growth in state personal income, gross domestic product, population and the regional consumer price index. Spending growth would be limited to 5% per year.

Voters defeated the same proposal last year by a 56%-44% margin. Rep. Beau Beaullieu, the New Iberia Republican who sponsored the proposal last year and this year, said the COVID-19 pandemic made meeting with voters to explain the complicated change difficult, which may have contributed to its failure at the polls.

Lawmakers already have the power to spend less money than they have, which makes the change unnecessary, critics have argued. Critics also have said tight spending limits can hinder a state’s recovery from a recession by forcing cuts to services.

Sen. Jay Luneau, D-Alexandria, suggested Monday overloading the ballot with a potential amendment voters already have rejected could make it less likely other amendments will pass, including the major tax proposals that have been a focus of this year’s session.

The Senate vote was 21-16; it needed 26 votes to reach the two-thirds threshold required for a proposed constitutional amendment.

This year’s regular session must end by 6 p.m. Thursday.