Stephanie Grace Notes: Expect out-of-control state budget to pinch New Orleans, others seeking higher millages _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- With tick sheet in hand, Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin, right, listens to Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, left, as the Legislature takes up taxing bills during the special session last week.

With Wednesday’s deadline looming, lawmakers at the state Capitol are still scrambling to piece together enough revenue to avert even deeper cuts to higher ed and health care. And no matter which taxes they decide to raise, by how much and for how long, you can bet that Louisiana taxpayers — even those who support new levies over drastic spending cuts — are not going to be happy about it.

That puts legislators in a tough spot. It’s also potentially bad news for someone who left the Legislature behind long ago.

I’m talking about New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who is hoping his constituents go to the polls on April 9 and approve higher millages to pay for fire and police.

The issues on the table in New Orleans, hiring more cops and funding the firefighter pension, have little to do with what’s going in Baton Rouge. But if voters are feeling pinched, they could well look for a place to draw the line, and the millage election is the next opportunity.

The irony is that local leaders generally schedule millage elections like this with great care. One common strategy is to set the election on an off-date rather than a high-turnout major election, in order to target chronic and likely more sympathetic voters. Another is to show some progress first, as the Landrieu administration has done by starting several police academy classes, reorganizing operations to cut down ridiculously long response times, and negotiating a groundbreaking legal settlement over the firefighter pension.

There are always going to factors local officials can’t control, though. And if the out-of-control state budget situation has a trickle-down effect, the tough job of selling the millage increase is going to be that much tougher.

‘Grace notes’ is a daily feature by Advocate columnist Stephanie Grace. To read more of her content, including her full columns, click here.