Louisiana lawmakers consider road funding options

| 8/31/2009

Despite its unpopularity with the public, one Louisiana state lawmaker says the most suitable solution to boost revenue for road and bridge maintenance might be an increase in the state’s fuel tax.

Rep. Hollis Downs, R-Ruston, told lawmakers gathered to discuss ways to finance highway needs that allowing the state’s 20-cent-per-gallon fuel tax to increase with inflation could be the best option.

Downs is the chairman of a special study group made up of four legislative panels charged with coming up with money to pay for needed transportation work. Other options the study group will consider include toll roads and partnering with private groups.

The state’s tax on diesel and gas hasn’t increased in 25 years. Of the 20 cent tax, 16 cents is earmarked for the state’s general highway construction and maintenance programs with the rest paying for a special highway and bridge construction program.

The tax amounts to about $30 million in revenue.

Officials with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development say that agency doesn’t get enough from the tax to keep up with demands. William Anker, secretary for the agency, told lawmakers the state has a backlog of road and bridge needs of about $1.25 billion, The Times-Picayune reported.

Anker said the fuel tax that hasn’t changed in a quarter-century only makes it worse. Because of inflation, he told lawmakers the 16 cent portion of the tax is worth less than half that amount.

Despite Gov. Bobby Jindal’s opposition to increasing the tax, lawmakers will continue to discuss the option, as well as others, as they approach an end-of-the-year deadline.

The Louisiana Legislature can take up for consideration possible funding methods during the regular session that begins in March 2010.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Louisiana in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.