Parish President Guy Cormier is beating the drum in appearances before various parish organizations and urging passage of an amendment to the Louisiana constitution that will be considered by voters in the Nov. 4 election.
Amendment No. 4 would increase the amount of state severance taxes allocated to parishes and, if approved, would be a financial bonanza for St. Martin and a number of other mineral-rich parishes.
The severance tax has been around since at least 1921 and provides that 20 percent of the tax collected on all natural resources, other than sulfur, lignite or timber, be shared with the parish of origin. For decades the amount going to parishes was capped at $750,000 per year. That figure was increased to $850,000 last year, with an automatic adjustment for inflation. The cap would rise to $875,000 in 2009.
The intent of sharing the money with local entities was to help compensate parishes for wear and tear on roads and bridges by oil and gas drilling equipment and other related traffic.
Amendment No. 4 would increase the cap to $1.85 million for fiscal year 2009 and $2.85 million for FY 2010, with annual adjustments for inflation thereafter.
Based on 2006-07 figures, St. Martin is among the top 25 oil and gas producing parishes, generating $11.6 million in oil and gas severance taxes during that fiscal year. Under the present cap, the parish would have received only $850,000 this year. But if the proposed amendment would have been in effect, that figure would have jumped to $1.85 million. And it would have been $2,329,959 after the cap is raised to $2.85 million.
That, of course, is a tremendous increase for a parish like St. Martin.
The amendment further requires that 50 percent of the additional severance tax revenue parishes re-ceive after July 1, 2009, be dedicated to transportation projects in the parishes.
So that would provide a considerable injection of funds to be used for road improvements around the parish.
The amendment also provides for the creation of the Atchafalaya Basin Conservation Fund that would receive up to $10 million per year from the state’s share of the serverance tax, with the money to be used exclusively for certain Atchafalaya Basin projects.
Passage of Amendment No. 4 would be of great benefit to St. Mar-tin Parish’s infrastructure and I would recommend you vote for this proposal on Nov. 4.
The Nov. 4 ballot will also in-clude six other proposed amendments.
Interestingly, the old 1921 state constitution was amended 536 times during the 53 years before a new constitution was adopted in 1974. That’s an average of 10 per year and resulted in a ridiculously convoluted document.
One of the things the 1974 constitution was supposed to do was cut down the need for so many amendments. While it apparently has, we’re still approving amendments at the rate of more than four per year, with 151 added during the 33 years since 1974.
THIS & THAT . . .
No More Wal-Mart – The St. Martinville Wal-Mart store will close its doors next Tuesday, Oct. 28, ending a 25 year run for the retail giant.
My memory is a little fuzzy, but I recall that Wal-Mart’s arrival in St. Martinville created a bit of controversy, as the company was given some substantial tax breaks. Local family businesses voiced well-founded fears that the big company would force many of them out of business, and that proved true.
After several months of heavy advertising, the company gradually scaled back its schedule in our paper, and for a number of years, followed a policy of not advertising locally at all. So from a business standpoint, I could care less if the store closes. In fact, I think some of our locally-owned businesses will benefit from Wal-Mart’s departure.
On the other hand, there’s no question that many Wal-Mart customers will follow the store to its new supercenter in Broussard, or to outlets in Breaux Bridge and/or New Iberia. St. Martinville’s already low sales tax collections will take another hit with the closing of the facility.
All in all, a complex issue.