Nathan Stubbs

All eyes on B.R. bond vote

by Nathan Stubbs

Baton Rouge voters go to the polls tomorrow to decide the fate of a $901 million capital improvements tax package. The measure, being pushed by B.R. Mayor-President Kip Holden, includes a half-cent sales tax increase and a 9.9 mill property tax. The new funding would go toward drainage improvements, a new parish prison and public safety complex, traffic light improvements and riverfront development. The measure is similar to one that Baton Rouge voters rejected by a slim 3,000 vote margin last year. This year, Holden resurrected the issue and has been campaigning hard for its passage.

Local officials in Lafayette, as well as across the state, will surely be watching the results intently, viewing it as a bellwether for how palatable any new tax measure is in the current economic climate. One major component of the bill — the half-cent sales tax increase — is similar to a measure pushed by Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel in 2006 (his proposal called for a 1-cent increase) that was to go toward funding road and drainage improvements. Durel has characterized the tax issue's failure at the polls as one of the biggest setbacks of his administration.

In Baton Rouge, the bond vote has energized both sides of the issue. Campaigning for: Mayor Holden, the Baton Rouge Chamber, and a group of young professionals called Progress Is. In the other corner: The Baton Rouge Tea Party, which has been beating the streets to "beat the bond." For more on the vote, read the story in today's Advocate.