And the Atchafalaya Basin Program, which mostly deals with water quality projects nowadays, will get a stable source of funding.
A “Yes” vote on the proposal would raise the cap on local revenue from severance taxes generated in a parish to $2.85 million by 2013.
It would also allocate half of the severance tax collected on state lands in the Basin – up to $10 million a year – to the Atchafalaya Basin Conservation Fund, 85 percent of which would have to be spent on improving water quality in the Basin.
A “no” vote on the proposal means the state will continue to cap local revenues from severance taxes at $850,000 annually (with some minor adjustment upward to reflect cost-of-living increases). Basin programs would continue to be funded on a catch-as-catch-can basis.
Giving parishes where natural resources are extracted some of the tax revenue to help pay for the wear and tear on roads, bridges and other infrastructure is an idea that was planted in the state Constitution of 1921. It was originally set up as a 20-80 split, with the parishes getting 20 percent of the taxes collected within its boundaries.
At some point voters agreed to put a cap on the money a parish could receive from severance. In 2006 voters increased the cap from $750,000 to $850,000 with annual adjustments according to the Consumer Price Index. Accordingly, the cap was $907,534 for 2009.
But at today’s prices, rather than reflecting a 20-80 split it’s actually a 5-95 split.
The proposed amendment would not return the ratio to 20-80 by any means. If new cap had been in effect last year, the split would have been 7 percent for the parish and 94 percent for the state.
In 2008, a proposed amendment to raise the cap was defeated statewide, probably in part because the language on the ballot made it unclear that it was a redistribution of an existing tax rather than a new tax.
This year’s ballot language is a little more clear.
The proposal raises the current cap to $1.85 million effective July 1, 2012, and increases it again by another million dollars on July 1, 2012, with CPI-based increases annually thereafter.
An added provision this year, however, puts a hold on the new cap until the state’s official revenue forecast projects that the severance tax collections will exceed the amount collected in 2009. According to an analysis by the Public Affairs Council of Louisiana, that’s not likely to occur until 2013.