Panel Proposes $700M Yearly Boost In Road, Bridge Money To LA Gov

Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development Secretary Shawn Wilson

BATON ROUGE (AP) — A study group created by Gov. John Bel Edwards recommended Tuesday that the state spend $700 million more annually on road and bridge work, primarily through tax and fee hikes.

         The Advocate’s Will Sentell reports the panel co-chaired by state transportation secretary Shawn Wilson did not specify how much money should come from each potential funding source.

         But a boost in the state gasoline tax is expected to be the main financing piece to any plan pushed by the governor.

         Edwards will decide how much money to seek from lawmakers and which proposals from the transportation task force he'll propose in the regular legislative session that begins in April.

         Louisiana has a $13 billion backlog of transportation repair and improvement needs. It also has a $16 billion wish list of new projects.

         The task force held multiple meetings and collected public comments from around the state to devise its recommendations. But those proposals are expected to hit roadblocks in a 2017 legislative session dominated by state budget problems and broader tax rewrite conversations.

         Any tax hike requires the approval of a hefty two-thirds of the state House and Senate.

         House Transportation Committee Chairman Kenny Havard, R-St. Francisville, a member of the task force, said it will be a "hard road" to reach a $700 million yearly increase for transportation, citing anti-tax sentiment among taxpayers.

         "I am not saying it won't pass," Havard said. "I am just saying there will have to be a lot of compromise."

         Motorists currently pay 38.4 cents in taxes per gallon of gasoline, including 20 cents in state taxes. Part of the plan approved by the task force includes a recommendation that any new gas tax revenue be linked to the rate of inflation or other expenses.

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