by Elliott Stonecipher
Much to the surprise of many, the expected continuation of City Council debate on the proposed tax hike on our CenterPoint gas bills will never happen. Without any further public discussion, a 125% increase from 2.0% to 4.5% has been quietly signed into Shreveport law.
In fact, the Shreveport Times reports CenterPoint’s confirmation that the increase will be on the gas bills of customers whose meters are read after June 1st.
As I stressed in my first article on this subject earlier this month, CenterPoint opposed and never wanted any increase in its “franchise fee.” Such held zero sway with our resident City Hall tax-and-spenders.
While Mayor Ollie Tyler contends the increase will add only $1.25 per month to “average” CenterPoint bills, the company has offered no public confirmation of that claim. Regardless, tens of thousands Shreveporters should expect notably larger increases.
The speed with which Mayor Tyler and her top staff worked to levy and start hauling in the tax increase may have set a record in taxation from inception-to-collection. On May 31st, some Council members were sharing, in writing, that they were in a “stalemate” with Tyler-ites over the proposed tax jump. As Times reporter Alexandria Burris has nailed down, the taxing ordinance actually went into effect on May 23rd, a week before Council members wrote me of their belief that they and the mayor were in a “stalemate.”
Putting a rotten cherry atop the confection, we now know the City’s “agreement” with CenterPoint was signed some days after the ordinance became law on May 23rd. I presume, therefore, that the Tyler meeting with CenterPoint was very brief, like, “Hi guys. The Council voted it, and I’ve made it law. Sign here.”
Shreveport already has, by a mile, the highest combined taxes of any city in Louisiana, not to mention cities in neighboring areas of other states. Regardless, before levying this new tax without any vote by those of us who will pay it, City Hall never considered, not for one moment, spending cuts instead of the tax hike.
The Tax Hike Vote of Our City Council
As we now know, the only chance Shreveporters had to stop this mess came in the City Council’s first vote on the matter in its May 12th regular meeting.
As detailed in the official Minutes of that meeting (beginning on Page 7, “Amendment No. 2 to Ordinance No. 32 of 2015“), the very first vote on the tax would have stopped it cold. Such was the motion of Councilman Oliver Jenkins: 2% for 10 years, as is. Only Jenkins and Councilman Mike Corbin voted “aye,” to thus kill any tax increase, with the remaining five members voting “nay,” meaning for an increase:
Democrat Jeff Everson
Democrat Willie Bradford
Democrat Stephanie Lynch
Democrat Jerry Bowman
Republican James Flurry
When this tax-jump stopper failed, multiple votes were then taken on various amendments raising the tax, finally ending with a 4.5% tax for 10 years.
These facts of the matter notwithstanding, Councilman Everson has strongly objected in writing on social media to my inclusion of his name in the above list, insisting specifically that,
“I was one of the ones who voted against adopting this increase.”
By linking, above, to the Official Minutes, readers will see that Councilman Everson voted against the only no-tax-hike amendment offered. On a later substitute motion by Councilman Corbin to raise the tax to 4% rather than 5%, Everson joined Councilmen Corbin and Jenkins, but the other four killed that attempt.
The facts do not support Mr. Everson’s insistence that he “voted against adopting this increase.”
With the 125% tax increase in place, the final amendment forces CenterPoint to raise Shreveport’s rate to match any higher rate CenterPoint agrees to with any other Louisiana municipality. Again, only Jenkins and Corbin voted “nay,” with the remaining five members approving the requirement.
Notably, and contrary to public assertions by some friends of Mayor Tyler in the local media, there was no dedication of the tax proceeds to street repairs or any other specific use.
CenterPoint vs. AEP / SWEPCO … Glover and Tyler
In 2011, as authored and pushed hard by ex-mayor Cedric Glover and his team, AEP / SWEPCO’s like tax on our electric bills was hiked 150% by that City Council – from 2% to 5%, and for 25 years. That is exactly what Mayor Tyler attempted to do with CenterPoint’s tax.
Handling the CenterPoint tax hike for Tyler is CAO Brian Crawford, who likewise handled the SWEPCO tax increase in 2011 as Assistant CAO for Glover.
As shown in the Official Minutes of the August 9, 2011*, City Council meeting – when the SWEPCO tax jump to 5% was voted in – the 3% additional tax was to be set aside for a “Streets Special Revenue Fund.” Current City Council members Everson, Jenkins, and Corbin, along with former member Ron Webb voted for the increase with the street repair program specifically attached. Then-members Sam Jenkins, Joe Shyne and Rose McCulloch voted against the tax hike, arguing for different street program specifics.
(*The 2011 votes were on Ordinance No. 56 of 2011, Amendment No. 1, attaching the “Streets Special Revenue Fund.” The Ordinance language is shown on Page 68, and the final vote at the top of Page 74.)
Clearly, most local officials do not believe what everyone else in public policy has long known: remarkably higher taxes cause population out-migration and are an impenetrable barrier to population in-migration. With a Caddo Parish population more than 12,000 fewer than in 1986 – 79% of Caddoans live in Shreveport – more than ample evidence of this continuing official failure abounds.
Fewer and fewer tax payers live here, and help is certainly not on the way.
A sizable majority of local public officials are busily at work to keep it that way.
(Elliott Stonecipher is in no way affiliated with any political party, and has long been a registered “Other,” or Independent. He has no client or other relationships which in any way influence his selections of subjects or the content of any article. His work is strictly in the public interest, with no compensation of any kind solicited or accepted. Appropriate credit to Mr. Stonecipher in the sharing – unedited only, please – of his work is appreciated.)