A bid to boost state aid for roads and bridges hit a wall Monday in the Louisiana Senate Finance Committee.
One of the proposals, Senate Bill 221, would accelerate the movement of money from Louisiana’s general revenue fund to one for state transportation only.
The other — Senate Bill 123 — would end the annual shift of state dollars from transportation to State Police.
Both were delayed indefinitely, and perhaps for good, by the powerful committee amid problems on how to resolve a $1.6 billion shortfall to keep state spending at current levels.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s plan to do so is under fire, and legislative leaders have offered no comprehensive budget repair package of their own.
Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Robert Adley, R-Benton, sponsor of a series of road-related bills, couched his proposals as a first step toward easing the state’s $12 billion backlog of road and bridge needs.
Adley said that, of $717 million in the Transportation Trust Fund, only $27 million found its way to state highways.
“We have a very serious structural problem of somehow trying to get the money back to the roads and bridges,” he said.
One of Adley’s bills would speed the timetable on state plans to redirect motor vehicle sales tax money — up to $400 million per year — to transportation. Those plans stem from a 2008 state law.
However, it is tied to a budget trigger that Adley said is unlikely to take effect before 2020, which he said is too late.
Under a revised version of the bill, those transfers would start with a $100 million transfer in 2017, and be phased in by similar amounts in successive years.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, said he remained concerned on how that money would be replaced in the general revenue fund.
The panel voted to hold the bill.
The committee voted to do the same on the measure to end the transfer of transportation dollars to State Police after hearing pleas from State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson.
That legislation is a proposed constitutional amendment, which requires the support of two-thirds of the state House and Senate and, if so, a majority of voters statewide.
Edmonson said the transfer — about $65 million this year — has played a key role in trimming highway deaths and sending State Police to patrol the streets of New Orleans amid persistent crime problems. “A $60 million to $70 million hit to State Police is devastating,” he told the committee.
Adley said voters expect state transportation dollars to be used for transportation, not State Police.
“I think it is the right thing to do,” he said. “I think that is what the public expects of us.”
The state House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday is set to discuss two sweeping proposals by House Transportation Committee Chairwoman Karen St. Germain, D-Pierre Part.
One would boost the state sales tax by 1 cent to raise $675 million per year for transportation.
The other would add a floating gas tax hike of up to 25 cents per gallon, which would raise another $750 million per year.
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