Nathan Stubbs

Council backs severance tax amendment

by Nathan Stubbs

At its meeting on Tuesday, the Lafayette city-parish council adopted a resolution in support state Constitutional Amendment No. 4 on the Nov. 4 ballot. The amendment raises the amount of severance taxes the state is required to share with parishes in which the severance taxes are generated. The state constitution currently requires the state to share 20 percent of oil and gas tax revenue with parishes, but the max each parish can receive is capped at $850,000. Amendment No. 4 would increase that cap to $1.85 million for fiscal year 2009 and $2.85 million thereafter. Each year after 2010, the cap would be adjusted upward for inflation. The amendment also would dedicate 50 percent of the additional severance tax revenue parishes receive after July 1, 2009, to transportation projects eligible to receive funds from the Parish Transportation Fund. The amendment is obviously drawing widespread support from local governments in oil-producing parishes, who argue they should be allowed to keep and re-invest more of these tax dollars locally.

Another portion of the amendment, which has some local environmentalists and crawfishermen opposing the change, creates the Atchafalaya Basin Conservation Fund. The amendment dedicates 50 percent of severance tax revenue collected on state lands - up to $10 million annually - to the fund, which would go toward Atchafalaya Basin Program projects. The Atchafalaya Basin Program has come under some fire in recent years, due to controversy surrounding its lone major water quality project at Bayou Postillion. Read more about the Bayou Postillion project here .