An election about nothing
|The overwhelming passage of Constitutional Amendment No. 1, by 81% of the measly 20.6% of statewide voters who actually went to the polls, means that 100% of us—and especially those in the business of selling houses—can now rest easy.|
Thanks to state legislators and a more than gentle nudge from the residential real estate industry, a very small number of Louisianans trudged to the polls Nov. 19 to overwhelmingly reject something that neither existed nor had any hope of coming into existence in the foreseeable future.
On a gloriously sunny and warm fall Saturday, when much of the state could have been election-free, our esteemed Legislature unanimously saw fit to spend taxpayer dollars on an election to decide nothing. This was a day when the only decision should have been whether to kill ducks or deer. Instead voters got to kill a tax before it could be conceived.
Day gave way to an evening where the only debate should have been whether it was kosher for LSU to eschew scoring and take a knee at the goal line with five minutes remaining at Ole Miss. Instead, on a day and night when most registered voters felt it was OK to eschew actually voting, an imaginary tax was obliterated far worse than the Tigers' 52-3 beat down of the Rebels.
The overwhelming passage of Constitutional Amendment No. 1, by 81% of the measly 20.6% of statewide voters who actually went to the polls, means that 100% of us—and especially those in the business of selling houses—can now rest easy. Our potential new tax nightmare is over before we ever fell asleep.
For those who never get beyond the newspaper's sports section—or for those who somehow missed the misleading advertising onslaught by Louisiana Realtors and the National Association of Realtors—the lone constitutional amendment on the ballot was a preemptive strike against any thought a local government might have about imposing a new real estate transfer tax. Essentially, the amendment, which now becomes part of our bloated state constitution, prohibits government from taxing you on the purchase of a new house. There was no talk of doing such a thing, mind you, but now such a discussion is pretty much off the table.
Supporters of the prohibition against what could or could not have one day become the scourge of taxation, argue such a tax is indeed possible because 37 other states have some form of real estate transfer taxes. Consequently, better to stop it now, went the line of logic, before someone here in local government discovers this potential fiscal panacea. Perhaps, but 48 other states do a lot of things that Louisiana could consider—such as better public education and health care—and we don't seem to be in any rush to follow that lead.
It was also suggested in the $300,000 campaign to thwart tax-and-spend liberals that a tax of just 1% on the purchase price of a house [or $3,000 on a $300,000 home] would further stymie an already stagnant residential real estate market. Again, that might be true if a government entity was actually proposing such a tax, but the only transfer tax that actually does exist in this state is assessed in New Orleans and it's a flat $325. Has anyone you know opted against buying a house in New Orleans because of a $325 transfer tax that's been on the books for decades?
If the real estate industry believes taxes and fees are having a negative impact on home sales, then perhaps the many professionals involved in the selling of a house could reduce or eliminate the various fees that they charge. Seriously, check out the settlement papers at your next house closing.
To be clear, in no way am I arguing in favor of a real estate transfer tax. In fact, it's likely I would oppose such a tax if one were actually ever proposed, which is exactly what voters in Livingston Parish did in 2004 when an actual, real-life tax was on the ballot.
What's ridiculous—and a bit offensive—is our state Legislature unanimously agreeing—at the behest of a special interest group—to let the voters arbitrarily remove from consideration a potential revenue-raising device by local government. It's interesting how not one person in state government has an objection to handcuffing the ability of local government to raise revenue. On the other hand, propose a constitutional amendment that limits state government's taxing authority and it's certain we'll hear at least one voice of dissent.
It's fine to reject taxes, but let's reject taxes that are actually being proposed—something at which voters in this parish have become quite adept. What's not acceptable is wasting taxpayer dollars funding elections to prevent maybes.
What's next, an amendment banning Martians from legally residing in Louisiana?
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