Roadwork funding bills fail in Louisiana

| 12/20/2006

The Louisiana House and Senate adjourned their special session Dec. 15 - two days early - without reaching final agreement on a variety of efforts.

Among the bills that died was a measure that sought to allow parish governments to split vehicle sales tax revenue instead of it going into the state's general fund.

Sponsored by Rep. Joel Robideaux, I-Lafayette, the measure - HB118 - called for dividing 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.

Robideaux told The Advertiser in Baton Rouge the bill was intended to "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.

Another bill that failed passage would've tapped into the state's general fund to pay for road and bridge work throughout the state.

Sponsored by Rep. Hunter Greene, R-Baton Rouge, the bill - HB99 - sought to divert $400 million from the general fund to pay for projects on the LaDOTD's essential projects list.

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

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

Another bill offered by Lambert would've hastened 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 - called for removing the phase-in provisions and requiring the full allocation of funding be deposited into the highway fund beginning the first of the year.

Each of the bills remained in the House Appropriations Committee when the session ended. They can be reintroduced during the regular session that opens in April 2007.