Despite huge political hurdles, Louisiana’s gasoline tax needs to rise by at least 10 cents per gallon for road and bridge improvements, the president of a transportation advocacy group said Monday.
Ken Perret, who heads the Louisiana Good Roads and Transportation Association, said the increase would generate up to $280 million per year and start to make a dent in the state’s $12 billion backlog of highway needs.
“Good roads cost money, but bad roads cost more,” Perret told the Press Club of Baton Rouge. “It’s a fact of life we are living with right now in Louisiana.”
Motorists in Louisiana pay 38.4 cents per gallon, with 20 cents of that in state taxes. That is ninth lowest in the nation, according to Perret’s group.
The national average is 31 cents per gallon.
A report issued Monday by Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera said there is concern the state’s key fund for road and bridge financing “may not be able to address the transportation infrastructure needs of the state.”
A bill that would have added a dime to the gas tax died in the state House of Representatives earlier this year without a debate amid election-year worries.
Meanwhile, the four contenders for governor have said transportation needs are real, but none have spelled out comprehensive plans to address them.
Perret’s group is a nonprofit organization that includes current and former transportation leaders.
Perret, a former top official of the state Department of Transportation and Development, said a typical motorist in Louisiana pays just $100 per year in state fuel taxes.
“That is really a startling fact when you consider the costs of other things,” he said.
Perret said the same motorist spends $408 per year for repairs sparked by poor roads.
“That bad road tax is real,” he said. “It is money coming out of your pocket.”
In a 31-page report, Purpera said the state ranks 48th in the condition of its urban interstates and 44th in its highway fatality rate.
The chief source of state funding is called the Transportation Trust Fund.
Purpera said that source has faced immense pressure for years, including near annual transfers of money to State Police, rising costs of construction and drops in federal transportation aid.
During the 2015 Legislature, House Transportation Committee Chairwoman Karen St. Germain, D-Pierre Part, sponsored the bill to boost the state gasoline tax by 10 cents per gallon.
Another St. Germain proposal to increase the state sales tax by 1 cent to raise $7.5 billion over a decade, and build a new bridge over the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge, fell 20 votes shorts of the two-thirds majority needed in the state House.
Opponents said the push needed the support of House and Senate leaders, predicted Gov. Bobby Jindal would never endorse it and said the move was ill-timed amid Louisiana’s $1.6 billion budget shortfall.
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