Broome ‘guardedly optimistic’ roads tax proposal will head to voters

Mayor Sharon Weston Broome’s MoveBR roads tax proposal looks as if it has a better chance of going before voters this year.

At least two Metro Council members who last year did not support Broome’s property tax pitch are leaning in favor of supporting her new proposal: a sales tax to cover the cost of road and infrastructure upgrades across the city.

The council is scheduled to vote Wednesday evening on whether to put the proposal on the Dec. 8 ballot.

Other key council members, however, remain undecided. And opposition is expected from some Republican members who have voted down tax requests in the past.

Last year, Broome’s proposed 5-mill property tax to fund similar improvements never made it to the ballot after being rejected in September by the Metro Council. The mayor returned this year with a different approach: a 30-year half-cent sales tax. A sales tax, though regressive, is generally viewed as a more palatable tax, particularly by Republicans, because, unlike property taxes, everyone pays.

The new approach may be working. Councilman Chandler Loupe says he’s leaning toward supporting the measure, though he wants to hear public comments at Wednesday’s meeting before making a final decision. Last year, Loupe did not vote for the roads tax.

Likewise, Councilwoman Denise Amoroso—appointed to fill her late husband Buddy Amoroso’s seat in July—says she’s inclined to support the proposal. Though her husband did not vote for the mayor’s previous pitch, she says he was leaning toward supporting this one.

“Something needs to be done about the traffic,” she says. “I know we all hate taxes, but something needs to be done.”

Councilwomen Barbara Freiberg and Tara Wicker, who both supported last year’s tax plan, are expected to vote in favor of sending the proposal to voters, with both saying they’ve heard no opposition from their respective districts.

Councilman Dwight Hudson, though, will likely be a no vote, saying his constituents would prefer the city-parish fund road projects with the taxes they already pay.

“I haven’t had one constituent call to ask me to support it,” Hudson says.

Two key players are on the fence: Council members Matt Watson, often a swing vote, and Chauna Banks, who both say they’ve requested changes to the list of proposed projects in their districts to be funded by the tax. Each says their vote is dependent upon whether those changes are made by tomorrow. Watson has spoken with the mayor’s administration about the changes, and once he gets them in writing, he says he can support the proposal.

Broome says she’s confident the requested changes will be made by tomorrow and she remains hopeful about her proposal moving forward.

“I’m guardedly optimistic about tomorrow,” Broome says. “Because I’ve served as an elected official for so many years, I know it’s not over until the vote is taken.”

The five remaining council members did not respond to requests for comment.

Last year, Republicans Scott Wilson, Trae Welch, Watson, Hudson and Amoroso voted against the mayor’s property tax pitch, while Freiberg and Democratic members LaMont Cole, Erika Green, Donna Collins-Lewis and Wicker voted for the proposal. Banks, a Democrat, and Loupe, a Republican, abstained.

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