In a short-term fix, two bills that would pave the way for spending an extra $100 million per year on roads and bridges won approval Monday in the House Appropriations Committee.
The measures, Senate bills 221 and 122, already have passed the state Senate and next face action in the full House.
One of the proposals — SB221 — would undo plans to boost state transportation aid by $400 million in the future.
The bills also are more modest than other, sweeping proposals to increase state aid for roads and bridges by more than $7 billion per year.
SB221 would allow for the transfer of $100 million per year from general revenue to a transportation fund, with the first $70 million designated for maintenance.
State Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, sponsor of the plan, has repeatedly said the move is needed to provide dollars for annual transportation upkeep amid Louisiana’s $12 billion backlog of road and bridge projects.
The bill would negate a 2008 state law that said, once state revenue reaches a certain level, $400 million of state sales tax dollars on motor vehicles now used for a wide range of state services would be moved to a fund for transportation only.
Adley told the committee revenue levels will not reach the needed target until 2020 or 2021, and that even then, any major transfer of dollars from general revenue would face huge political obstacles.
“Taking $400 million out of the general revenue fund is just not going to happen,” Adley said.
The change would be a blow to the state Department of Transportation and Development.
DOTD Secretary Sherri LeBas has repeatedly said the agency is banking on hopes for the $400 million annual injection of new dollars.
LeBas called the $100 million a vital first step but not enough to address long-term improvement needs.
The second measure — SB122 — is aimed at allowing for the transfer from general revenue to a roads fund only without endangering state finances amid recurring budget problems.
That bill would, by changing budget rules, allow the state to keep an extra $100 million in its general revenue fund rather than requiring that it be sent to the state’s Rainy Day Fund.
Adley said the bills stem from an interim study of state transportation problems.
Any long-term transportation repair bills face major problems with adjournment looming June 11.
Last week, a bill to increase state aid for roads and bridges by $7.5 billion over 10 years fell 20 votes short of approval in the House.
A second vote may take place this week.
It is House Bill 778.
Another proposal to boost road aid by $300 million per year through a 10-cent boost in the state’s gasoline tax is stalled in the House.
It is House Bill 777.
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