A special panel studying state road and bridge needs approved its final report Wednesday, spelling out options for lawmakers to review without endorsing any sweeping changes.
Public-private partnerships, linking Louisiana’s gasoline tax to inflation and allowing local governments to raise their own dollars for transportation are among the options.
Those and others may be considered during the 2015 Legislature, which begins on April 13.
House Transportation Committee Chairwoman Karen St. Germain, D-Pierre Part, who is also chairwoman of the special committee, said it made no sense for the panel to endorse one or two proposed funding changes.
If those go nowhere, “then you have kind of shot yourself in the foot,” St. Germain said after the meeting.
She said she hopes months of meetings by the Transportation Funding Task Force will trigger more discussion statewide about road issues.
“We need to make transportation a lot more talked about,” St. Germain said.
“I want them (taxpayers) to know exactly what we would like to do in the future and give us back some information,” she said.
Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Robert Adley, R-Benton, who is vice chairman of the task force, has repeatedly said the state needs to recapture transportation dollars now diverted to State Police.
The state moves about $60 million per year from the key source of road and bridge dollars to State Police, where it is used in all nine districts for salaries, benefits and fuel costs.
Adley says ending that diversion would help the state come up with at least $70 million per year for road and bridge maintenance, up from what he calls a paltry $27 million annually now.
He said he expects changes in the diversion of road and bridge dollars to other state services will be approved by the Legislature this year.
Public-private partnerships are agreements between the state and private firms to build and maintain roads and bridges.
Backers say the agreements offer states a way to compile megaprojects that otherwise would not happen amid Louisiana’s $12 billion backlog of road and bridge needs.
The state Department of Transportation is reviewing one such proposal that envisions an $800 million inner loop around Baton Rouge.
A report is due in October.
The state constitution bans local governments from imposing gasoline taxes.
Allowing them to do so, backers said, would lessen their reliance on state transportation aid and allow pressing local needs to be addressed.
Efforts to find major dollars for transportation face huge hurdles in the upcoming session.
Gov. Bobby Jindal opposes any tax increases, and 2015 is an election year.
Motorists pay 38.4 cents per gallon in Louisiana for state and federal taxes.
That includes 16 cents for rank-and-file projects and 4 cents for 16 projects that voters approved in 1989, called TIMED.
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