Louisiana bills would fund roadwork

| Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A bill awaiting consideration in the Louisiana special session would allow parish governments to split vehicle sales tax revenue instead of it going into the state's general fund.

The bill - HB118 - is one of several efforts drawing consideration in a special session with the primary focus on what to do with an anticipated budget surplus of $827 million from the past fiscal year and another $800 million expected during the current fiscal year.

Sponsored by Rep. Joel Robideaux, I-Lafayette, the measure would divide revenue from the 4 percent sales tax according to population. But Robideaux said the estimated $273 million could be split different ways, such as by vehicle sales or factoring in highway miles in a parish.

If the bill is approved, "it would have a real economic impact across the state," Robideaux told The Advertiser in Baton Rouge. "Let parishes do what they know needs to be done," instead of leaving it up to the state Department of Transportation and Development to decide, he said.

In other activities, Rep. Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge, has introduced a bill that would tap into the state's general fund to pay for road and bridge work throughout the state.

The bill - HB99 - would divert $400 million from the general fund to pay for projects on the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development's essential projects list.

Rep. Eddie Lambert, R-Prairieville, has offered his own bills to tap into the general fund for roads.

The first bill - HB97 - would appropriate $20 million in one-time funding for expansion of state Highway 42 in Ascension Parish. The second bill - HB98 - would earmark $10 million in one-time funding for improvements along state Highway 73 in Ascension Parish.

Another bill offered by Lambert would speed up the transfer of state truck and trailer registration and licensing fees and taxes from the general fund to the state's Highway Improvement Program Fund.

The highway fund, which was approved by lawmakers earlier this year, can only spend the money on state highways serving rural areas, which are ineligible for federal assistance.

The new law calls for the fund to receive 25 percent of state proceeds from the truck fees and taxes for fiscal year 2007. The percentage will increase by 25 percent each year until 2010.

Lambert's bill - HB23 - would remove the phase-in provisions and require the full allocation of funding be deposited into the highway fund beginning Jan. 1, 2007.

Each of the bills is in the House Appropriations Committee.

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