A bid to pump about $430 million more into transportation projects in Louisiana failed to win legislative approval during the recently completed regular session.
The House unanimously approved the bill but it later was rejected by the Senate Finance Committee on a 6-1 vote. Efforts to attach the legislation to other bills were thwarted, mostly because of threats of vetoes by Gov. Kathleen Blanco.
The bill – HB722 – sought to dedicate money now routed to the state’s general revenue fund to the highway improvement fund. The money comes from vehicle and parts sales tax revenues, mineral revenues and truck and trailer registration fees.
Another $125 million from the highway fund would have been protected from diversion to other services, including retirement and other benefits to former state highway workers and traffic control assistance for the Louisiana State Police.
Concerns about the plan centered on taking money from the general fund that is used on all budget items. Supporters said the bill would have provided the state a needed shot in the arm to cope with a $14 billion backlog of road improvements.
The revenue would have started flowing into the highway fund in July 2008. It included a 2010 sunset provision to reassess the need to continue the diversion of funds.
The bulk of funds – 86 percent – would have been used for road work on the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development’s priority list. Large-scale projects and the ports would have split the remainder.
At least $50 million annually would have been earmarked for state highways that aren’t eligible for federal aid.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor