Don’t say you weren’t warned about Sharon Weston Broome. You were warned about Sharon Weston Broome.
Mayor Sharon Weston Broome is moving forward with a proposed property tax to fund transportation projects, seven months after voters narrowly rejected a similar measure.
The 5-mil property tax is part of a rebranded infrastructure plan called BTR, which stands for Better Transportation and Roads. The mayor will likely make a formal announcement on the plan as early as today, and it will need Metro Council support if it’s to be placed on the November ballot.
The move may face an uphill climb with voters, who in December voted down a 5-mil property tax to fund projects in the Green Light Plan, but proponents of the new effort hope some of the anti-tax fervor driven by last year’s flood has died down. Plus, three sources close to the move say a group of industry leaders commissioned a poll on residents’ feelings on paying for transportation projects and found favorable results.
“The need is there,” says interim Chief Administrative Officer Jim Llorens. “The only way you (fix) it is you have to have the resources.”
Of course she’s bringing a tax increase. When your LABI score is a dismal 30 percent, there is little question your first major economic policy item will be a demand for more tax revenue.
But it’s OK, because it’s For The Roadz. Which is the same argument we heard this spring when it was demanded that the legislature raise the gas tax to pay for road improvement projects.
A 5-mil property tax would generate about $20 million per year, and if it’s a 30-year tax that’s $600 million – so think of it that way in terms of what kind of bond capacity you’d raise with this tax. That’s not all this proposal would include…
Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome’s tax plan for transportation improvements will include a new, 5-mill property tax, along with a rededication of an existing half-cent sales tax that funded her predecessor’s Greenlight Plan for road improvements.
While the list of projects the taxes would pay for are not known at this point, the use of a new property tax and the rededication of the existing sales tax is identical to the Greenlight 2 proposition that voters rejected for roads late last year.
Under Broome’s proposal, the taxes would be collected starting in 2018 and ending in 2047. While the new property tax would go toward projects expected to increase the number of drivers on a road, the rededicated sales tax would pay for so-called “community enhancement” projects, like sidewalks, curbs, lightning and more.
So the sales tax piece isn’t for the roads. It’s for bike paths and shrubbery.
Can $600 million (which isn’t the number, but we’ll just use it for simplicity’s sake) build a new bridge over the Mississippi? Nope. Can it turn Nicholson Drive, otherwise known as Highway 30, into a proper approach road for a new bridge in the southern part of East Baton Rouge Parish? Yes. Can that money do much else? Yes, sort of. Should you have any confidence the money will actually apply to road projects the parish will benefit from? Not a lot, though we’ll wait until the specific list of projects it’s to fund is released, which Broome’s staff has promised.
Can the city-parish find $20 million per year on its own? Almost assuredly. Can it find that money in some of the other idiotic dedications or overdedications it taxes its citizens for? Good God, yes. After all, we’re now on the hook for $8 million per year for the criminal syndicate that is the East Baton Rouge Council On Aging, which rides on the Baton Rouge Metro Council’s taxing power. The Metro Council could lower the millage dedicated to EBRCOA if it wanted, thus freeing up space in homeowners’ checkbooks that could be used to pay for roads. Ditto for the tax to support the East Baton Rouge Parish Library system, which has almost $70 million in surplus funds; the millage for the libraries could be cut a few million dollars a year for several years and the library could operate on that surplus during that time in order to pass a road tax without an overall tax increase.
Is anybody in Sharon Weston Broome’s office considering such steps? Hell, no. Reprioritization of government funds is complete anathema to a left-wing redistributionist like this city elected. The answer is always more, more and more.
So even though the voters just rejected a road tax a lot like this one, Broome’s going back to the well. She isn’t even making a feint toward trying to find money elsewhere to push to infrastructure; it’s all about growing government.
Either kill this tax when it goes to the ballot on Nov. 18 and force Broome to rummage through her budget to find the resources to improve the roads, or be not surprised when she comes right back for more of your money next year. That’s what you elected last year, Baton Rouge.