BATON ROUGE – Local lawmakers voiced skepticism over legislation which would add 17 cents per gallon to the gasoline tax generate additional revenue for the state’s transportation infrastructure.
State Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, introduced legislation Tuesday that, if passed, would pave the way for major investments in transportation infrastructure across the state.
House Bill 322 would also increase transparency and accountability in the prioritization of projects and place restrictions so new revenue is solely invested in infrastructure.
Erdey, whose campaign platform weighed heavily on road improvements, believes many truckers would bypass Louisiana truck stops.
“If you have a trucker driving Interstate 10 or 20, they’ll gas up before the reach the state and after the leave it,” he said. “A seventeen-cent spike per gallon is a lot of money for truckers.”
State Rep. J. Rogers Pope believes the additional 17 cents would also deal a blow to residents who continue to struggle after the flood.
“People in our area aren’t willing to go with it this point in time and for obvious reasons,” he said. “They’re recovering from the flood, and the gas prices are already going up and we don’t know what’s going to happen with oil prices after what’s going down with Syria.”
State Rep. Sherman Mack, R-Albany, was more open to the gasoline tax, provided it does not pad a different budget item.
Mack believes accountability is the biggest issue with any tax.
“If people have to pay a tax, they have every right to know where every penny of their investment is going,” he said.
Accountability also concerns Erdey.
He alluded to moves by the Jindal Administration to balance the state’s General Fund with money from the Transportation Trust Fund.
“People don’t like it when they support a tax and it goes areas other than where they were told it would go,” Erdey said. “By putting money from the Transportation Trust Fund to projects other than roads, the state turned it into the Transportation Mistrust Fund.”
Carter said his legislation provides safeguards to ensure transparency.
“Across Louisiana our infrastructure is crumbling. The citizens of this state are sick of being stuck in traffic, and they want bold solutions that improve safety, quality of life and economic productivity, which this bill provides,” said Representative Carter. “At the same time, this bill includes key provisions to safeguard investments with greater transparency and accountability members of the legislature and the people they represent deserve.”
According to a recent report released by TRIP, a national transportation research organization, roads and bridges that are deteriorated, congested or lack safety features cost Louisiana motorists a total of
$6.5 billion statewide annually – as much as $2,466 per driver in some areas – due to higher vehicle operating costs, traffic crashes and congestion-related delays. By contrast, increasing the gas tax by 17 cents to improve these infrastructure conditions would cost the average driver about $113 per year, or less than $10 per month.
Another recent report, LSU’s annual Louisiana Survey 2017, showed strong bipartisan support among
Louisiana residents for a substantial increase in the state gas tax to improve transportation and infrastructure, with a majority of respondents in support of a gas tax increase even as high as 20 cents.
Key provisions of HB 632 include:
• Levies an additional tax on motor fuels of 17 cents per gallon. While the Governor’s Task Force on Transportation Infrastructure Investment recommended an increase of 23 cents, the 17 cents reflected in HB 632 is a reasonable compromise that will make a significant positive impact on tackling new major capacity projects and backlog projects across the state. The 17-cent increase is also widely believed to represent what the existing gas tax level would be had it been indexed to inflation when previously set decades ago.
• Prohibits the Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) from using this new revenue to fund administrative or operational costs of the department, including but not limited to the payment of employee wages and related benefits or employee retirement benefits.
• Directs 50 percent of the proceeds from the new tax shall be used to fund the construction of Priority A and B megaprojects in the Statewide Transportation Plan. Any project that is funded by at least 10 percent from non-state or non-federal funds shall be given additional priority.
• Requires DOTD to provide an annual report to the legislature and the public listing projects to be constructed in the ensuing fiscal year, based on data-driven project prioritization, as well as a report on progress of projects funded with the revenue generated by the bill.
• Beginning in January 2020, to help sustain long-term infrastructure investments, allows for the annual adjustment of existing and new motor fuel taxes, or indexing, in accordance with the Consumer Price Index. The indexing contains a cap of 13 cents to prohibit indefinite increases.