ELECTION 2015: Louisiana gubernatorial candidates talk transportation funding

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Voters in Louisiana will decide next week who they want to battle it out for the next six weeks to fill the governor’s seat for at least the next four years. Transportation funding is a major issue being addressed on the campaign trail.

The “jungle primary” will be held on Oct. 24. The unique setup is an open primary system that puts all candidates on one ballot. A runoff election will follow on Nov. 21 for the top two vote-getters, unless one candidate receives at least 50 percent of the vote in next week’s primary.

The gubernatorial election has nine candidates on the ballot. However, only four hopefuls are considered to be serious contenders.

Candidates expected to draw the most votes on the state’s Election Day are three Republicans: U.S. Sen. David Vitter, former Lt. Gov. Scott Angelle and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne. Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards is also a major contender.

Sitting Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, is term limited and cannot run for re-election.

The next governor must sign off on a plan to help address a $12 billion backlog to pay for infrastructure needs.

All four candidates have said that before more money is raised for road and bridge work the state must first restore voter confidence in how existing revenue is being used.

Vitter has called for existing funds to be protected from raids to pay for other budgets. He also wants to restructure the state Department of Transportation and Development and come up with a high-priority highway program.

In addition to protecting transportation dollars, Angelle wants to improve efficiencies at the state DOTD and “explore” the use of public-private partnerships.

“Dedicated gas taxes have been diverted to other purposes in recent years, resulting in woefully inadequate funding to maintain our existing roads and almost no funds remaining for future infrastructure projects,” Angelle posted on his campaign site.

Dardenne is looking to limit transportation revenue for transportation purposes. He says the state must also look into P3s to build new highways and to get “mega” projects done.

He has stated that the current practice of rerouting road dollars in Louisiana is “an embarrassing mismanagement of our resources.”

Dardenne is also calling for separate funding mechanisms for ports and roads.

Edwards is in favor of an increase in capital spending for roads and bridges. He also wants to route more federal dollars to the state while preventing raids on transportation funds.

In addition, Edwards said during a recent debate that he would not rule out a fuel tax increase to boost transportation revenue. He added that voters would need to sign off on the tax increase.

Early voting began Oct. 10 and ends Saturday, Oct. 17.

The top four candidates for governor are scheduled to debate on Thursday, Oct. 15, at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, La.

For more 2015 election coverage from Land Line, click here.

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