Louisiana’s roads and bridges would get $40 million more a
year under a bill awaiting Gov. Kathleen Blanco’s signature. The state’s House
and Senate both approved the measure with unanimous consent.
Sponsored by Rep. Eddie Lambert, R-Prairieville, the bill
would establish a Highway Improvement Program Fund for the state. Under HB728,
the fund would receive a portion of truck and trailer registration and
licensing fees and taxes that now are used to pay Louisiana’s general expenses.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development
could only spend the money on state highways serving rural areas, which are
ineligible for federal assistance.
“I’m trying to get some of our needs … funded. It would be
for maintenance and capital improvements, including expanding highway lanes,” Lambert told The Advocate newspaper in Baton Rouge.
The Highway Improvement Program Fund would receive 25
percent of state proceeds from the truck fees and taxes for fiscal year 2007.
The percentage would increase by 25 percent each year until 2010.
Lambert also offered two constitutional amendments and their
companion state laws.
They would have relied on the establishment of a Highway
Improvement Program Fund and money from a variety of sources but they failed to
gain passage before the Legislature wrapped up their work for the year on June
One proposed amendment to the state’s constitution – HB647 –
would have required 10 percent of any increases in the official state revenue
forecast to be deposited into the highway fund. After the state’s rainy-day
fund hit its cap, a second proposed amendment – HB697 – would have sent 25
percent of the overflow into the fund, too.
The revenue would have been used to fund “maintenance and
capacity improvements, including additional lanes and intersection improvements
of roads and bridges of the state and federal highway systems,” Lambert wrote.