Mayor's BTR plan must cross final hurdle before heading to voters this fall

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Mayor Sharon Weston Broome says she is confident heading into a metro council vote on one of the largest initiatives of her term so far, the BTR tax plan.

"I remain very optimistic about it being on the ballot and I believe that the people of this city and parish want to see increased mobility," she said.

Broome has long said time for talk is over and the need for action on the city's traffic nightmare is now. The mayor has pitched the idea to the public in a series of meetings this summer and says feedback has been positive.

"I can tell you that I have attended every public meeting and that the response that I've received has been a good response," Broome added.

EBR metro council members will decide Wednesday, September 13, whether to put the 5-mill property tax on the November ballot. The vote must happen at the meeting in order to meet a deadline to get the tax to the Secretary of State's office to be placed on the ballot this fall.

"I think there are a number of council members who are not quite sure what they're going to do at this point," said councilwoman Barbara Freiberg.

Freiberg admits there are at least a handful of her colleagues that still oppose the plan. She says, among other things, a big part of the concern is that more attention should have been placed on drainage following last year's flood. The current version does not address those issues. Freiberg though says she is 100 percent sold on the idea for now.

"My support level is pretty high," Freiberg added. "I mean I am in support of this."

The main difference between last year's failed Green Light plan that voters rejected in December and this is the current measure focuses on traffic management. The plan will spend $40 million to make traffic lights better.

Additionally, $360 million will go for new roads, another $100 million will be used for sidewalk repairs and plus roughly 40 million for landscaping. The total price tag for the plan is $540 million dollars, some of which will come from the tax, the rededication of an existing ½ cent sales tax and federal dollars.

While critics have said not all questions have been answered about the proposal, Freiberg believes it is a decision that should be left up to voters and that is exactly what she intends to do Wednesday night.

"I just think it's important to give the voters the opportunity to decide whether they want this or don't want it," said Freiberg.

If passed, voters can expect to have the final say on the measure on November 18, 2017.

The final public meeting on the BTR plan ahead of Wednesday's vote will be held Tuesday, September 12,2017 at the Independence Park Theater beginning at 6 p.m.

More information about the plan can be found here.

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