$2.6 Billion Dollars in additional Taxes?!


Louisiana citizens have long had a bizarre relationship with their local government bodies. Corruption has been part of our state’s political culture, and it didn’t start with Huey P. Long. It existed for decades before Long’s rise to power in the 1920s. Very simply, we distrust our government entirely. Yet, despite this, Louisiana voters approved over $2.6 BILLION in additional taxes on Saturday, April 27, 2024!

Is it Stockholm Syndrome?

Stockholm syndrome is a condition that results from certain relationships in which there are power imbalances. These may include being taken hostage, kidnapped, or otherwise involved in an abusive relationship. The captive or oppressed develops a psychological bond with their captor or oppressor. The condition gets its name from a bank heist that occurred in Stockholm, Sweden, in the 1970s. Four bank employees were held hostage for several days. Following their release, the hostages not only refused to testify against their oppressors, but they actively sought to raise money for their defense.

Thomas Paine, in Common Sense, stated:

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Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.

As many people across our state struggle to make ends meet financially, they continue to increase the size and scope of government. The same government that depends on us for its very existence is not only not responsive to the needs of the people but also does not respect our rights. Yet, we continue to fund it. Is it that we have digressed to some depraved condition where we look at government as our master?

The Minority Rules the Majority

It is a minority of voters who passed over $2.6 billion in additional taxes. Yes, it may take a majority of votes cast for a matter to pass, but on average, only 11.8% of voters cast ballots during the April 27th tax measures. That means it was only necessary for 6% of registered voters to cast favorable ballots to increase taxes on the other 94%.

It was a small minority of voters who approved 28 new taxes! That consists of 20 new Ad Valorem, 7 new sales taxes, and 1 “acreage tax.” Those new taxes are expected to collect an additional $40.9 million from Louisiana taxpayers annually. That same small minority of voters approved 14 bond propositions, which would generate $455.7 million. Lastly, 62 tax renewals, including both Ad Valorem and Sales Tax renewals, were approved, resulting in $150.1 million being collected from Louisiana taxpayers annually. The total cost exceeds $2.6 BILLION when extrapolated for the several measures.

Iberia Parish’s Tommy Tax

Out of the 113 tax measures that appeared on April 27th ballots, we received the most calls and messages from people about the tax proposition Iberia Parish Sheriff Tommy Romero put forth. Tommy’s tax was also the only tax measure out of the 113 that is perpetual—it is never-ending—the ONLY one!

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Following the successful passage of the tax, Lt. Todd Anslum with the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office commented on Facebook:

If you voted no, kindly refrain from calling the Sheriff’s Office… we understand you don’t need us.

Sounds like the words of an oppressor to the oppressed. A little narcissistic and certainly unbecoming of a “public servant.”

Iberia Parish, you just gave this sort of attitude a pay raise. But it probably won’t be the 40% originally promised, or even the 20% discussed the week before the election.

Practical Solutions

There are many practical solutions to consider when examining this April tax election. The first and most obvious is the timing of the elections. April elections are generally very low turnout, so why do we have them?

Louisiana law, LARS 18:402(C)(2), requires that municipal elections wherein the municipality population is less than three hundred thousand, which do not fall the same year as the elections for governor or members of congress, are to hold primary elections the last Saturday in March of an election year and the general election on the fifth Saturday after the last Saturday in March of an election year. The law, LARS 18:1285, also provides for election notice requirements, including any election for bond, debt, or tax propositions approved by the State Bond Commission. Public notice must be published once a week for four consecutive weeks in the official journal of the political subdivision. It must also occur no less than forty-five (45) days and no more than ninety (90) days between the date of the first publication and the date of the election.

A statutory framework

Additionally, the Secretary of State is barred from preparing or certifying a ballot concerning a bond, debt, or tax proposition subject to the approval of the State Bond Commission without certification in writing from the commission’s chairman that the measure was considered and approved. That certificate must be received at least four weeks before the opening of the qualifying period for the primary election or on or before the fifty-fourth (54) day before the election if the election is not to be held on a primary election date.

So, in short, we have a statutory framework that ensures proper notice requirements and timeliness for measures involving bonds, debt, or tax propositions. However, state law shackles the framework to the month of March, thereby frequently giving us April elections. Is it something our legislature could change and improve upon? YES!

Other things to consider

While we are considering a wish list of legislative changes concerning bond, debt, or tax proposition elections, how about this? Why don’t we require at least a fifty percent voter turnout threshold to approve any bond, debt, or tax proposition? Why should a tiny minority be able to bind the majority of us to these obligations?

Political subdivisions would stomp their feet and gripe that they would never get another tax proposition passed. But the fact is that if the majority of voters honestly thought a tax proposition was needed to improve their conditions, they would show up. They don’t trust their government will do what they say they will with the money once collected. Additionally, this would be an added incentive for the Registrar of Voters in certain communities to tackle cleaning up their voter rolls. That way, the threshold stays safely within reach.

Do you trust your local government?

The distrust in government has each of us, the informed that is, accustomed to reading the ballot language of each tax proposition. We often ask ourselves what precisely this tax is dedicated to. If it isn’t specifically “dedicated” to a specific function, our politicians will blow it on other things that aren’t needed. This distrust and attitude could be partly to blame for our higher taxes.

If we bottle each tax proposition up to “specific purposes,” we hamstring our government officials from being able to use and redirect available funds to the highest priorities. This is the same argument we see floating around as a partial need for a constitutional convention. They want to free all these constitutionally dedicated funds up for use elsewhere. These constitutional protections were erected in the first place due to distrust and serve to protect these funds from poor fiscal practices, like when a super-majority of legislators voted to exceed the state’s spending cap last year.

Only property owners vote on special property taxes?

Why should non-property owners be allowed to vote on tax measures which only require payment by property owners? Residents in Lafayette Parish don’t get to vote on elected officials in Iberia Parish. Voters in the City of Youngsville don’t get to vote on tax measures in the City of Scott. Why should we treat property owners any differently? We empower those without a stake in the property to vote on measures that won’t have to pay.

Direct taxing authority

We also have a situation in Louisiana where certain officials can pursue a tax that benefits them directly while others can’t. We will use the Sheriff as our example. He is a Constitutional Officer with direct taxing power. The legislature grants him this power by creating Law Enforcement Districts (LARS 13:5901, et seq.) Should it be that way?

We have other constitutional officers who do not have direct taxing authority. In this state, if you are going to have a parish, you must have certain things. You have to have a courthouse and a jail. You also have to have certain officers like a Coroner and a Clerk of Court. In most areas, these things and offices are funded almost entirely by the Parish Government. Makes sense! If it is a prerequisite for founding a Parish, why wouldn’t the Parish Government be responsible for providing for its own operation?

A different option?

How much better would the situation be if we had parish governing authorities who received all the tax revenues collected within a particular parish and had to prioritize those funds for each elected office? You would no longer have each elected official with a clenched fist holding tightly to budget surpluses in the millions year after year. Nor would you have monies tied up for specific dedicated purposes.

In this situation, the parish governing authority could decide the allocation of monies to these different areas based on their needs, whether we need a new courthouse, a new jail, or an increase in salaries for a particular agency. If the Sheriff is doing a good job and being frugal with the dollars he was allocated the previous year, he may be considered to receive an increase the following year. However, if he restriped all his units with new logos and colors for the third time since taking office or his staff have been caught with their hand in the cookie jar and nothing has been done about it, he mightn’t receive additional money.

Forever taxes must end

Then there are the forever taxes! The Tommy taxes! The ones that generations yet unborn are now obligated to pay. Should that be allowed? Why shouldn’t we have a sunset provision on every special tax? And not some loose language that allows the political subdivision that wants a tax to set the duration end date to five hundred years. This could be a straightforward constitutional amendment – “No special tax shall be collected for any period over ten years.

There you go! It’s pretty straightforward. There’s not much to define or fight about interpreting. If you want a special tax and get it passed, you can collect it for ten years. After ten years, if you think it needs to continue, you have to do it all over again.

Federalism is the key

In closing, there are many things to consider if we want to usher in the age of a New Louisiana. We have heard it repeatedly during legislative sessions this year—Louisiana is an outlier! This statement is usually made in conjunction with the statement that we should do things like Texas or Florida. The only problem with these statements is that we are not starting from the same place as Texas and Florida.

Our situation is different. We are starting in the swamp’s muddy waters, surrounded by swamp creatures constantly looking for ways to benefit themselves using the public purse. It’s one thing to draw ideas and inspiration from other areas that have produced better outcomes. Implementing wholesale solutions that aren’t applicable or may not operate effectively within our established framework is entirely different.

That is the beauty of federalism. Each state can experiment to find the best solutions for its area based on the culture, resources, and existing conditions. New York may be an excellent state for New Yorkers, but it’s a nightmare for Louisianians! Federalism doesn’t just have to be a state thing. It can be a local thing as well. Here’s looking at you, St. George! Congratulations on your victory!



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