State Representatives weigh in on Mayor Landrieu's hotel-motel t - | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

State Representatives weigh in on Mayor Landrieu's hotel-motel tax redistribution plea


In response to the Bourbon Street shootings, Mayor Mitch Landrieu requested help from the state legislators to redirect hotel-motel tax funds to the city of New Orleans in order to combat crime.

"We're asking for additional funding for public safety through the allocation of a larger portion of the hotel-motel tax to the city and a re-dedication of one-penny of the hotel motel tax from the convention center to generate the resources we need to hire police officers," Landrieu said on Tuesday.

Though the change in the tax is possible, some legislators believe it won't be easy.

Legislatures heard the correlation between public safety and the hotel industry throughout the last legislative session.

"If we don't get this under control, there won't be a hotel and motel industry to protect," said Rep. Austin Badon.

City leaders had hoped the state would raise the hotel-motel tax to help pay for public safety in New Orleans, but the bill was shelved.

Now, the mayor proposes a new dialogue: redistributing the money already generated by the current tax.

"Right now New Orleans is not getting its fair share," said Badon.

According to Sen. JP Morrell, the current hotel-motel tax is 13 cents.

He said of that 13 cents, New Orleans gets 1.5 cents for the city's general fund, 4 cents goes to the Superdome Commission, 3 cents to the convention center, 2 cents goes to the state central fund and 2.5 cents is shared between RTA and the school board.

At least one group will have to lose money in order for New Orleans to gain.

"The state will never agree to give up its two cents, that's off the table," said Morrell.

Morrell said the fight to keep shares will be strong by each of the entities, but the discussion will likely focus around reallocating money from RTA and the school board.

"The problem with that is, you're then asking the legislature and the public to support redirecting money that's currently dedicated to transportation and education to the city's general fund for police. Though it's possible, I don't know how probable that is," said Morrell.

The state assets like the Superdome and convention center, which are within the city borders, use their share of the tax money for operating costs.

"I'm committed to fight for all the resources that those and other state assets in our city need to be able to operate effectively because they create jobs, they stimulate our economy," said Rep. Walt Leger.

Leger said the hospitality industry, another significant job stimulator, already contributes to the public safety discussion. It's important this new proposal is part of that already ongoing conversation.

"One thing I think that's really critical is, while this tragedy has stirred some action, we have to keep in mind that policy in my opinion is best served cold. And so, knee-jerk reactions to terrible tragedies are not the best way to legislate or set policy," said Leger.

According to Morrell, the hotel-motel tax breakdown is very different in other states.

Morrell said in San Francisco, the city keeps 64 percent of a 14 cent tax for its general fund, Atlanta keeps 25 percent of an 8 cent tax, Las Vegas keeps 50 percent of a 2 cent tax, and Austin's general fund gets nothing from the tax.

Morrell said in each of those cases, all of the money stays with local entities and the state gets none of the money generated from the tax.

According to city data, in 2013 New Orleans made $13.8 million from the tax, and the city expects to generate $15 million from the tax in 2014.

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