Publisher: How I’m voting on the constitutional amendments on Nov. 8

In his latest column, Business Report Publisher Rolfe McCollister tells readers how and why he intends to vote on the six constitutional amendments on the Nov. 8 ballot.

“These matters are often confusing in their language and impact,” says McCollister, adding one of the best sources for information on the amendments is a recently-released guide from the Public Affairs Research Council. “Some I feel strongly about. Several have pros and cons and are a close call. Some have loopholes with a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, and others come down to intent and execution.”

McCollister says he will vote to approve all but one of the amendments. He opposes an amendment that would adjust the threshold for tapping protected funds.

As PAR explains, “The proposed amendment would add a new trigger letting the Legislature use otherwise protected and dedicated funds. It adds five other funds and trusts to the list of accounts exempted from the present and proposed triggers. It also allows fund balances to be diverted.”

McCollister says he is “not opposed to sweeping accounts if revenues are down and there are more serious priorities facing our state,” adding there are two aspects of the amendment he doesn’t like.

“First, this adds a new trigger that could apply even when state revenues increase. The trigger can happen with just a 1% decline in the official revenue forecast. Total state revenues could be up and we are still tapping these dedicated funds,” he writes. “In addition, the amendment locks up five more funds, limiting flexibility—an issue Louisiana has struggled with for decades.”

The five amendments McCollister supports would establish new requirements for local registrars of voters; provide tuition and fee autonomy to college management boards; eliminate the federal income tax deduction for corporations on state tax returns and set a flat rate; create a property tax exemption for surviving spouses of persons killed in the line of duty; and create a Revenue Stabilization Trust Fund.

As a businessman and member of the LSU Board of Supervisors, McCollister is particularly close the issue of college management board autonomy. He notes Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. that requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to approve a tuition increase.

“I believe in a free enterprise marketplace and putting the customer first by providing an excellent product at a good value,” he writes. “That formula can succeed whether you are a restaurant or a university. But why would a restaurateur let other people, who meet once a year and are not in the restaurant daily, set his menu prices? He wouldn’t. And for more than 130 years, neither did Louisiana when it came to setting tuition for higher education—but it changed. This amendment would restore that ability and take politics out of the classroom. If higher education must compete in-state and out-of-state, it must control its destiny and control its tuition to maintain quality for students and avoid creating a brain drain to schools in other states.”

Read the full column for McCollister’s take on all six of the proposed amendments.

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