Louisiana’s 2021 Constitutional Amendments: What you need to know

Voters will decide on four amendments on the Nov. 13 ballot

By: - October 30, 2021 11:52 am
American flag steaked into mountain of cash

(Getty Images)

Louisiana voters will consider four constitutional amendments — and little else — in the next election scheduled for Nov. 13. All four amendments would affect Louisiana’s tax policy if passed.

The amendments are the only items on the statewide ballot. New Orleans has high-profile elections for city government, but there’s not much else that will drive voters to the polls in the rest of the state. Election turnout is expected to be very low. 

Early voting for this election starts Saturday and will run through Nov. 6 (except for Sunday, when early voting sites will be closed.)

Here’s a summary of what the amendments would do:

Constitutional Amendment #1: Consolidating sales tax collections

This amendment takes another step toward shifting control of local government sales tax collections from local government entities to a state government entity.

Currently, local governments — everyone from sheriffs to school boards depending on where a person lives — are in charge of collecting local sales taxes, while the state collects state and online sales taxes. In most other states, all sales tax collections are centralized, which is far easier on retail businesses.

This amendment would set up a central state commission to determine how to shift local sales tax collection to the state level and to develop a new audit process. But it does not outline what that new processes would look like.

The amendment may stave off lawsuits about Louisiana’s existing sales tax collection process, but some local government officials are wary of giving up more control of tax collections to the state. Local government representatives would be on the state commission this amendment creates, but local elected officials don’t always believe the state has their best interests at heart.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell is opposed to the amendment. Cantrell’s administration runs local sales tax collection in her city and believes shifting those responsibilities to the state could be disruptive. She’s also upset that another state board — the state bond commission — recently withheld millions of dollars for construction projects in New Orleans over a political fight about New Orleans COVID-19 mask mandate. The fight has made her less likely to want to yield more control to the state.

Cantrell’s opinion is of particular importance in this election because she is on the same ballot as the amendment and New Orleans is one of the only areas of the state where competitive elections are being held. Turnout in New Orleans is expected to be far higher than in other parts of the state.

Constitutional Amendment #2: Income tax changes

This amendment would lower income tax rates in exchange for lifting state income tax deductions. It would also reduce the state’s corporate franchise tax and possibly set up the state for further individual and business tax cuts in the future.

Supporters of the amendment say it will simplify Louisiana’s complicated tax code and stabilize state revenue — all without making any drastic changes to the amount of tax money the state collects. But advocates for low- and moderate-income people are skeptical of the proposal and are asking residents to vote it down.

This amendment is complex. A more detailed explanation from the Louisiana Illuminator is here. Please read that story for more information.

Constitutional Amendment #3: Levee district taxes

Taxes in five levee districts in the state could potentially rise if this amendment passes — but only if it gets approved statewide and in those individual levee districts.

The affected levee districts are: Chenier Plain Coastal Restoration and Protection Authority; Iberia Parish Levee, Hurricane and Conservation District; Squirrel Run Levee and Drainage District; St. Tammany Levee, Drainage and Conservation District and Tangipahoa Levee District.

All levee boards created before 2006 can already levy up to 5 mills in property tax to support flood protection. These five levee districts were created after 2006, and do not currently have tax-increase authority.

Constitutional Amendment #4: Elected officials get more access to funds

During a state budget downturn, the governor and legislative leaders can shift up to 5 percent of the money found in dedicated state funds to help cover a financial shortfall elsewhere. This amendment would allow state elected officials to draw down as much as 10 percent of each fund during a financial crisis. 

There are hundreds of such funds and they support a variety of state functions, from education initiatives to hunting and fishing enforcement. But they aren’t supposed to be used for purposes other than the ones to which they are dedicated. The amendment would allow more of their money to be shifted to other priorities during tough times.

But by freeing up more money, Louisiana may be able to avoid such heavy cuts to health care services and higher education during budget crises. Over the past several years, these two functions have had to absorb most of the state government reductions because the governor and lawmakers had little other money available to them for cutting. This could help alleviate that problem.

Additional Resources:

For a detailed account of the amendments, you can find the Public Affairs Research Council guide here.

The Louisiana Budget Project has provided its guide to the amendments here.

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Julie O'Donoghue
Julie O'Donoghue

Julie O’Donoghue is a senior reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator. She’s received awards from the Virginia Press Association and Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press.