The leaders of the House and Senate transportation committees have filed a bill that would increase Louisiana’s gasoline tax by 4 cents per gallon — amounting to about $120 million per year.
The proposal was submitted by House Transportation Committee Chairwoman Karen St. Germain, D-Pierre Part, and Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Robert Adley, R-Benton.
Any such plan faces major election-year hurdles, and Gov. Bobby Jindal opposes any tax increases unless they are offset by cuts elsewhere.
St. Germain and Adley led a special committee last year that studied state transportation problems. That panel recommended a wide range of options without endorsing any specific plan.
The gas tax hike, which is House Bill 712, will be considered when the 2015 regular legislative session begins on Monday. It ends on June 11.
Adley said the bill is one in a series that will be aimed at easing state financial problems, aiding local governments and finding dollars for highway and bridge maintenance initially, and then bigger projects.
Asked what he would say to motorists pleased by the drop in gasoline prices and leery of any tax hikes, he replied, “I guess the answer to that is we have a $12 billion problem in the state.
“Sooner or later we have to face facts,” Adley said. “The way we are currently structured is not going to solve the problem.”
The state has a $12.3 billion backlog of needed road and bridge repairs.
Motorists pay 38.4 cents per gallon in Louisiana in state and federal taxes.
That includes 16 cents for ordinary state projects and 4 cents for 16 special projects, known as TIMED.
The 16-cent portion of the state tax has not changed since 1984. Previous efforts to raise it, or to link the gasoline tax to the rate of inflation, have gone nowhere.
Under the plan by St. Germain and Adley, dollars raised by the higher tax would go to the Parish Transportation Fund to finance local road projects.
Adley has complained in the past that parishes are getting more of the state gas tax revenue than they are owed at the same time that state road and bridge maintenance is being shortchanged.
St. Germain did not return a call for comment.
Neither Adley nor St. Germain can seek re-election this year because of term limits.
Kenneth Perret, president of the Louisiana Good Roads & Transportation Association, said he is encouraged that the legislation was filed.
“I certainly think any move to raise revenue is a move in the right direction,” said Perret, a former top official of the state Department of Transportation and Development.