Louisiana panel rejects 'automatic' fuel tax increases

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 5/9/2013

Truckers and others fueling in Louisiana do not have to concern themselves with paying more state fuel taxes.

The Louisiana House Ways and Means Committee voted 8-7 this week to kill a bill that called for linking the state’s fuel tax rate to inflation. The change would have allowed most of the state’s 20-cent-per-gallon tax rate on gas and diesel to automatically adjust to changes in the cost of living.

Sponsored by Rep. Karen St. Germain, D-Plaquemine, HB675 called for tying 16 cents of the state’s fuel tax rate to inflation. The other 4 cents is used to pay off bonds from a nearly-25-year-old program to improve the state’s transportation system.

According to a fiscal note attached to the bill, the change would raise $149 million over five years.

House Transportation Chairman St. Germain said that lawmakers need to act to help the state Department of Transportation and Development address about $12 billion in road and bridges needs.

She pointed out that when the 16-cent rate was imposed in 1984 it wasn’t indexed to inflation. As a result, St. Germain said the rate now equates to 7.1 cents.

“DOTD does the best they can to meet the needs that we have. But the fact of the matter is we have a fixed funding mechanism to pay for infrastructure costs that escalate every year,” St. Germain testified.

Opponents said lawmakers should be required to approve any tax increase instead of taking the easy way out with automatic changes.

Cathy Gautreaux, executive director of the Louisiana Motor Transport Association, told lawmakers that the bill is a significant issue to truckers who buy 300 gallons of fuel at a time.

“We totally agree that more money is needed for highway funding,” Gautreaux said. “Our concerns are how we get there.”

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