(The Center Square) – The Louisiana House voted Monday to advance a state constitutional amendment meant to restrain state spending.
The same measure sailed through the Louisiana Legislature last year before being defeated by voters at a 56-44 margin. The change faced some opposition in the House this year, requiring two votes Monday to gain the assent of the two-thirds of members needed for passage.
Rep. Beau Beaullieu, R-New Iberia, authored House Bill 276 and the associated House Bill 273, which taken together would strip the current expenditure limit from the constitution and replace it with a more complex formula.
Louisiana has a spending limit calculated based on the old limit multiplied by the average personal income growth over the past three years. Because of the compounding effect, the limit rarely comes into play, which Beaullieu said makes it meaningless.
HB 276 would create a more complex formula involving the three-year average growth in state personal income, gross domestic product, population and the regional consumer price index. Spending growth would be limited to 5% per year. The bill exempts federal COVID-19-related relief from the calculation.
The measures would not reduce current state spending. Lawmakers already have the power to spend less money than they have, which makes the change unnecessary, critics have argued. Critics also have said tight spending limits can hinder a state’s recovery from a recession by forcing cuts to services.
Rep. Mandie Landry, D-New Orleans, suggested it was a waste of resources to advance a measure voters soundly rejected last fall.
Beaullieu said the change is complicated, but he has found that voters like the idea when it is explained to them, which there were fewer opportunities to do given the COVID-19 environment last year.