Effort to send more money to roads awaits Louisiana governor's OK

| Wednesday, June 28, 2006

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 19.

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.

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