Baton Rouge councilman Ryan Heck in letter to editor: An argument against dedicated taxes in favor of mental health funding _lowres

Metro Councilman Ryan Heck

I recently searched The Advocate’s archives at the suggestion of a friend who recalled that this publication may have spoken against dedicated taxes in the past as one of the reasons our state budget is in its present situation. While I could find no mention of that, I have discovered there aren’t many taxes you don’t seem to support. You deserve credit for consistency, I suppose.

It is not arguable that we have some first class amenities here in EBR, including but not limited to the library system and BREC. In the past, I have voted for them myself.

Here is what is also not arguable: We have mentally ill citizens that desperately need help outside of the prison system, not in it. We have a well documented traffic problem that has been crippling economic growth for 40 years. We have crumbling bridges and other key infrastructure here in this parish that is dangerously close to failure. We have substantial public safety issues that need to be addressed. And we have a public school system that is almost single-handedly the largest economic engine of success for Zachary, Central, Ascension Parish and Livingston Parish.

Why should we settle for this any longer? If the voters do not trust the Mayor’s Office to produce and the Council to pass a budget that addresses the issues above, we as elected officials should do a better job of connecting with our constituents. To not entertain alternative methods of addressing our most serious issues without raising net taxes is foolish, irresponsible government and plain bad policy. After all, any plans to reallocate taxpayer dollars would be required to pass the vote of the people. I absolutely respect the opinion of our citizens and their votes, but isn’t it true that opinions change as priorities change? The days of manna from heaven coming down in the form of federal and state dollars are mostly gone. It is left to us to fund and fix our problems.

We should not cower and run from this conversation. We all desire vibrant parks, a robust library system, modern mass transit and other wonderful items, but we need a serious discussion on what our most pressing priorities are or we can all keep talking about our problems and the exodus of the middle class will continue; ultimately there will be no one left to use these amenities. Dedicated taxation limits our ability as a parish to dynamically address priorities, and that’s the facts. It is my belief that we have enough current revenues to address our most pressing needs and wants, if we are just willing to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work you pay us to do. Simply proposing new taxes and hoping for the best is a failing strategy.

Ryan Heck

Metro Councilman, District 11

Baton Rouge