Homestead break for elderly fails

The state Senate on Monday killed a proposed constitutional amendment that would have granted a homestead exemption break to everyone over age 65.

The proposal, sponsored by state Sen. Ronnie Johns, R-Sulpur, received 8 votes for to 27 against. Twenty-six votes were needed for Senate passage.

Senate Bill 74 would have taken the income test out of a constitutional provision under which a homeowner age 65 or older can get their property tax assessment frozen. Today, the provision applies to those with incomes up to $69,400. The income limit is adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index.

Johns said assessors are having trouble verifying people's income. He said some people are getting the exemption when they are not eligible. "This bill brings equity to the whole system" said Johns.

But opponents said Johns was taking the wrong approach.

"You are voting for a tax increase on everybody under 65 years old and businesses in the area," said state Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville.

State Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, said the constitutional provision was approved to give low income people a property tax break. "You are expanding the original objective of the bill," said LaFleur. He said efforts should instead be toward helping assessors find a way to better police income requirements.