Landrieu and tourism leaders at odds on higher hotel tax
Dave Cohen Reporting
Louisiana lawmakers are considering a bills that could let New Orleans voters decide on raising hotel/motel taxes in the Crescent City.
City officials say the additional 1.75% tax on lodging would be used to pay for more police officers.
"I am very concerned that if we don't fix this problem now, into the future we are gonna be facing a problem we don't want to face," New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu warned.
He says he does not have enough money or cops.
"If this is all I get, and I can't hire police officers, and public safety in the number one issue... I have got to fix this problem," Landrieu told lawmakers.
He says it is an issue that directly impacts tourism and locals.
Landrieu noted, "As soon as you send a whole bunch of police officers into the French Quarter to protect the tourists, which is absolutely necessary, the folks in the rest of the city say, 'Well how come we can't have them here?' I'm saying we oughta have both."
Tourism officials are fighting the proposal.
"We cannot impose an additional tax burden on the people of New Orleans, the people of Louisiana and people who visit Louisiana," Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne said.
He stressed that the tourism industry in the state and the city are at record levels and this could jeopardize that as huge conventions and major events look at their options.
"Louisianians have rallied to overcome the challenges of hurricanes and the oil spill," Dardenne noted and insisted increasing the tax could jeopardize that.
The Lt. Governor also said that if there were a tax hike, all the money should be spent to attract more visitors.
"There ought not be any addition tax on hotel/motel that is not generated for tourism," he said.
Tourism leaders say the hike would give New Orleans among the highest tax rates anywhere.
Landrieu has also asked for voters to get a chance to cast ballots on raising the cigarette tax in New Orleans by 80 cents.