Louisiana House OKs plans for road work

| Friday, June 15, 2007

With the end of the regular session in Louisiana less than two weeks away, a bill still drawing consideration would pump about $450 million more into transportation projects.

The House unanimously approved the bill that would dedicate money now routed to the state general revenue fund to the highway improvement fund. The money comes from vehicle and parts sales tax revenues, mineral revenues and truck and trailer registrations.

Another $125 million from the highway fund would be 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.

The bill – HB722 – now heads to the Senate where a committee killed a similar effort earlier in the session. Concerns about the plan center on taking money from the general fund that is used on all budget items.

House Transportation Committee Chairman Roy Quezaire, D-Gonzalez, said his bill would provide the state a needed shot in the arm to cope with a $14 billion backlog of needed improvements.

The added revenue would begin flowing into the highway fund in July 2008. It includes a 2010 sunset provision to reassess the need to continue the diversion of funds.

The bulk of funds – 86 percent – would be used for road work on the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development’s priority list. Large-scale projects and the ports would split the remainder.

At least $50 million annually would be earmarked for state highways that aren’t eligible for federal aid.

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