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.”
Local leaders argue the revenue generated will catalyze a much-needed revamp of roads and other infrastructure in the city-parish as state revenues for such projects dry up, even if a local property tax won’t be enough to fund mega projects like a new Mississippi River bridge. Broome’s transition team tacitly endorsed reviving the tax measure for transportation.
Fred Raiford, city-parish director of transportation, says he is working on a list of projects that will be included in the new proposal. The mayor’s office has told Metro Council members they will see a list of projects before voting on the proposal, likely next month.
Broome has met with business leaders and lawmakers recently to explore the issue, and rumors have circulated for months the mayor would revive the effort.
“One of the main things we’re all asking for before we vote on it is can we see a list of projects,” says Metro Councilman Buddy Amoroso. “A year ago when the former mayor brought the Green Light program to the council it was very hard for me to explain to my constituents what this program did.”
Amoroso says he also wants the program to be more data-driven than the Green Light Plan, and to focus on connecting East Baton Rouge with other parishes—for instance, revamping La. 30, which connects the west side of the parish with Iberville Parish.
Scott Kirkpatrick, a lobbyist who heads the Capital Region Industry for Sustainable Infrastructure Solutions, says the business community in the area is ready for a fix to roads, bridges and other infrastructure that has long been neglected. CRISIS, a coalition of major industry players in the region, has lobbied for more investment in transportation.
“They’re eager for some solutions and don’t think the status quo is sustainable,” he says.