Ascension Voters Continue To Oppose New Taxes

PRAIRIEVILLE, LA (AP) — Parish President Tommy Martinez said the word "tax" means "no" in Ascension Parish.

         Voters have not approved a new parish-wide tax for Ascension government in 20 years.

         Despite mounting pressure for more money to build new roads and provide other services in the parish, a wide majority of voters said "no" to three proposals for new taxes in the last three years. They included a half-cent sales tax for roads in 2012, a property tax in 2013 to transition from volunteer to paid firefighters in East Ascension and, last week, a property tax to pay for recreation.

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         Critics of taxes say residents don't trust parish government to spend the money as promised or that the parish doesn't even need the money in the first place. They want a more limited government that works within its means and moves more slowly to address those problems.

         "I think people are tired of taxes. They told them 'no' twice, and they keep putting taxes on the ballot. What part of 'no' don't you understand?" asked Kathryn Goppelt, chairwoman of the Ascension Parish Republican Party Executive Committee and an organizer of anti-tax campaigns against the past three proposals.

         Ascension Parish was the state's fastest-growing parish between 2000 and 2010 and third-fastest over the last three years, but starkly different visions have emerged over how to deal with the impacts of population growth.

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         The last parish-wide tax was approved in 1994 when a half-cent sales tax for roads and firefighters was adopted, though smaller district taxes were passed in the mid-2000s for fire and water service.

         The Advocate’s David J. Mitchell reports while voters have resisted new taxes, they have regularly supported tax renewals for parish government, but last week, renewal of parcel fees for the Prairieville Fire Department also failed 51 percent to 49 percent, though a 10-mill property tax for the department was renewed.

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