American Press

The new mayor-president of East Baton Rouge Parish wants to put a proposed 5-mill property tax on the Nov. 18 ballot for road improvements. Sharon Weston Broome is getting some valuable advice that would serve any public officials well who are also considering new taxes.

Former EBR Mayor-President Kip Holden convinced 67 percent of those who voted in 2005 to approve a half-cent sales tax for roads, and The Advocate explained how it happened.

Pollster John Couvillon of JMC Enterprises of Louisiana said Holden crafted the package in February of 2005 and spent months explaining it to voters and members of the Metro Council. Three public meetings were held in each council district.

Roy Fletcher, a political consultant, said proponents of a new tax have to convince voters the funds will definitely be spent on roads and not just for inflated government. Voters also need to understand the tax is cheaper than what bad roads are costing them in automotive repair bills. Voters also want details on which roads are going to be improved and when, he said.

Couvillon talked about voters getting tax weary at times. He said when voters rejected a 5-mill property tax proposed by Holden last year it was one of five tax proposals on the ballot. Broome was quick to say her proposal is not simply a rehash of the transportation tax rejected last year and promised specifics of the plan would be released quickly.

An additional hotel tax may be on the same ballot as Broome’s proposal, and Couvillon said it would have to be stressed that tourists would pay most of those taxes. He said another problem is the fact voters approved a Council on Aging tax last year and the agency has been rocked with scandals since then.

“If I were trying to pass a new tax, I would certainly talk about the safeguards to make sure that the money was spent properly,” Couvillon said.

The Baton Rouge Area Chamber and members of the Metro Council said this week they were still waiting for details of Broome’s plan. Some of those experts don’t think there is sufficient time to sell Broome’s tax plan to voters. If Broome goes ahead, she will definitely have a tough selling job.