BATON ROUGE, La. -- The Louisiana Legislature has just one week left to wrap up its work in Baton Rouge.
A bill to allow voters to decide whether tolls on the Crescent City Connection should stay or go is expected to come down to the wire.
A poll taken last week in Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes shows strong support on both sides of the issue. According to the survey of 400 registered voters by Market Research Insight, 45 percent want the tolls to continue, 40 percent want them to expire and 15 percent are undecided.
"I'm for ending the tolls, number one," said state Rep. Pat Connick, R-Marrero. "But, if we can't do that, I'm for reform of the system. It's got to be reformed. It can't be the same way."
"We stand to lose what we have as far as essential services along the bridge," said state Rep. Bryan Adams, R-Gretna. "I don't think we want to let things go and look like the bridges across the rest of the state."
"In a perfect world we've love nothing more than for the state to come in and say we're going to keep the police force there, we're going to keep the clean-up there, we're going to maintain it, we're going to paint the bridge, we're going to fix the Harvey Tunnel, we'll put on ramps on and off," said Jefferson Parish Council Chairman Chris Roberts. "But guess what? The state is saying it's not going to do that."
Last week, a Senate committee stripped House-approved safeguards from the bill.
Those safeguards called for the first $10 million in tolls to be set aside for road projects on and leading up to the bridge. The rest of the money is to be used for maintenance and operation of the CCC, and no tolls could be used to subsidize ferry operations.
Roberts said the JP Council is close to withdrawing its resolution supporting the toll referendum.
"In the current form, the bill is not acceptable and this needs to get corrected, otherwise, we don't even support giving the voters an opportunity vote on it because it wouldn't be a piece of legislation I think ensures their protection," said Roberts.
Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee is expected to discuss the bill.
"We have some amendments that are going to restore the bill to its form when it left the House to make sure that the bonding money is protected and to make sure that the projects are listed," said Adams.
"If that bill passes the Senate in a posture that hurts the West Bank, I will ask the governor to veto it," said Connick.
"The legislature has got to get the language in this right," said Roberts. "It's got to ensure the toll payers as to where that money is going and what they can expect the benefit to be by agreeing to do this."
Roberts wants some of the toll money earmarked to fix-up the Harvey Tunnel, which he says has fallen into disrepair.
Local lawmakers say they will push for a list of top tier projects to be funded by the tolls.