Two of Baton Rouge’s big problems may be addressed with significant new initiatives approved by voters Saturday.
A $913 million program of road and bridge improvements will cost us all at the cash register, but the half-cent sales tax increase pays for borrowing the money to get projects under way as soon as possible. The far-reaching program aims to deal with traffic congestion that is choking growth and annoying motorists daily.
Another 1.5 mill property tax will fund the Bridge Center to help law enforcement deal with mental illness. Diverting mental patients to the center should save officers time and trouble, and hopefully it will begin a process of lowering the population of Parish Prison. That could mean major long-term savings for taxpayers.
Some of the new local money for infrastructure will be spent on state roads, but the nonprofit Louisiana Budget Project, which studies state fiscal policy, commented correctly that waiting is unwise: “Louisiana's roads and bridges are a mess, and the money to pay for needed repairs and upgrades is woefully deficient thanks to a gasoline tax that hasn't been raised in nearly 30 years. With the Legislature unlikely to act anytime soon, local governments are starting to take up some of the slack.”
We congratulate Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome and volunteers and civic organizations who backed the taxes. It was a fight worth taking on.