The predominantly white and wealthy residents of the southern area of Baton Rouge have proposed seceding from the city proper and incorporating into a new one to be called “St. George.”
The movement began as an effort to create a new school district, but after the state legislature repeatedly mothballed its proposals — claiming that they could not approve an independent school district that was unaffiliated with a city — organizers shifted their energies to the creation of “St. George.”
The new city would be the fifth largest in the state, with over 107,000 residents, and would include two of the largest tax revenue bases in the state: Perkins Rowe and the Mall of Louisiana. A study by the Baton Rouge Area Chamber concluded that Baton Rouge residents “will be disproportionately paying taxes to the proposed municipality,” given city governance’s reliance on sales tax revenues.
If the succession were successful, the study claimed, it “could entail the dissolution of the present system of governance.”
But this is exactly what Jindal's plan to cut property taxes and raise sales taxes was intended to do: shift the tax burden from the wealthy (with their wealth in property, stocks, and savings) and shift it to the poor (who have to pay sales taxes on everyday consumption). The proposed St. George municipality would mean that Baton Rouge residents would be paying sales taxes at the shopping district in St. George, and all of the benefit would go to the resident of St. George.
But nobody dares call it "wealth redistribution" or anything. And if Jindal has his way, all the state's income and corporate taxes would be replaced by sales taxes. The plan backfired only because Republicans realized voters would have revolted if they went along with the plan.
The problem with St. George goes deeper than taxes, however.
The demographic shift the incorporation of “St. George” would create is almost as troubling as the economic difficulties. According to recent study on the demographic impact of Hurricane Katrina, the city of Baton Rouge accepted over 200,000 displaced New Orleans residents, the majority of whom were black and settled in the northern, urban parts of the city.
The “St. George” proposal would create a poor, black, and urban Baton Rouge and a wealthy, white, and suburban “St. George.” Supporters of the new city brush off such complaints. “Typically, the only comments you hear are those that try to create fear,” one of the leaders of the movement, Norman Browning said. “They never support it with any documentation to make those claims.”
He did not address any of the specifics of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber’s study.
Taxpayer money went to create the improvements in southern Baton Rouge for everyone in the region. Now they want to take those improvements and tell "those people" to get the hell out. That's the way it's worked in America for 400 years.