Here is a roundup of The Advocate’s positions on items on the New Orleans-area election ballot on Saturday:
French Quarter Security Tax: Yes.
Amid heightened public concern about crime throughout New Orleans, every positive step toward enforcement deserves the support of the public. That is why we encourage voters in the French Quarter to back a city-proposed sales tax for increased police protection.
The 0.2495 percent sales tax would raise about $2 million a year for public safety in the targeted district, which includes not only the Quarter proper but all businesses bounded by the river, the center line of Canal Street, and both sides North Rampart Street and Esplanade Avenue.
This new tax would be part of a package of funding measures intended to suppress a crime problem that has not only gotten out of hand for residents of the area but is a real worry for the city’s vital tourism industry.
As the epicenter of tourism in Louisiana, the downtown area needs to be safe — and that means safer than it is now.
Constitutional Amendment 1. Budget Fund: No.
Amendment 1 proposes splitting today’s state rainy day fund into two funds: $500 million for a rainy day and up to $500 million for road projects We’re skeptical about more state dedications that limit flexibility in dealing with budget challenges.
This amendment is no substitute for a commitment to raising money directly for serious transportation investments.
Constitutional Amendment 2. Infrastructure Bank. Yes.
This second road proposal is one that was rejected by voters last year. We criticized the creation of an “infrastructure bank” because the details of the proposal had not been fleshed out in law. The Legislature has corrected that flaw with details about how the bank would work, basically as a revolving loan fund for local governments to borrow for road projects. It’s not a comprehensive fix for transportation, but it might help.
Constitutional Amendment 3. Legislative Sessions: Yes
Amendment No. 3 broadens language in the constitution regarding fiscal sessions of the Legislature. The current law is thought by lawmakers to be unduly restrictive. Fiscal sessions are those dealing with budget and tax matters, but as the state’s long list of tax breaks and business incentives has grown — including rebates of taxes via credits — the existing language has caused confusion about what bills can be filed in the short sessions.
Does it fundamentally alter the dynamics of fiscal sessions? We don’t think so, so it seems safely a “yes” vote.
Constitutional Amendment 4. Property Taxes: No
In West Carroll Parish, with a limited property tax base, the local assessor and sheriff levied property taxes on an out-of-state natural gas facility owned by the municipal power company of Memphis, Tennessee. Because the Louisiana Constitution prohibits taxation of “public lands” and “other public property used for public purposes,” Tennessee sued and won, saying that language applies to their public property as well as that of a Louisiana city or parish. That still might be appealed, but the amendment intends to reverse the court’s decision.