Louisianans To Decide Fate Of Major State Tax Proposal

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Louisiana voters went to the polls late last week to decide the fate of a proposed constitutional amendment that would overhaul the state's tax system.

If approved, the new tax system would raise an additional $115 million in state revenues.

On the other hand, the state would face a $700-million shortfall if the voters were to reject the proposed amendment, said Karen Noles, a spokesman for Gov. Buddy Roemer. Officials in the state said last week that voter sentiment on the April 29 ballot measure appeared to be equally divided.

Mr. Roemer has argued that approval of the tax changes would be a major step toward putting the state on sound financial footing. He has convened the state legislature six times in the last year in unsuccessful attempts to solve Lousiana's seemingly intractable fiscal problems.

Nevertheless, the Governor conceded at the opening of the legislature's regular session last month that lawmakers would still have to cut $200 million from his proposed $7.7-billion state budget, regardless of the outcome of the tax election.

The legislature would have to pare funding for higher education and the state's charity hospital system to balance the budget as the state constitution requires, a spokesman for the Governor said.

Funding for the school-foundation program is constitutionally protected. The state board of elementary and secondary education has recommended $1.5 billion for the program this year.

Although the school-foundation program is secure, education officials expressed concern over Mr. Roemer's proposal to withhold the second installment of a three-year teacher-salary increase to help the state make ends meet.

Victor S. Hodgkins, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association, also said his organization was concerned that the proposed budget cuts would prevent lawmakers from acting to reduce the state pension program's unfunded liability, as required by a two-year-old constitutional amendment.--pw

Vol. 08, Issue 32

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