A special task force Monday sent a laundry list of ideas for addressing Louisiana’s staggering $12 billion backlog of road and bridge work to the Legislature’s transportation committees for consideration.
But after months of work, the panel made no recommendations on which specific path or paths to pursue in the 2015 Legislature, which opens April 13.
The report includes suggestions ranging from public-private partnerships, swapping the per-gallon gas tax for a sales tax, dedicating some excess mineral revenue to transportation needs and providing tax incentives for private investments in development of major projects.
The eight-member task force that includes legislators and current and former state transportation agency officials had a Jan. 15 deadline for submitting a report.
House Transportation Committee Chairwoman Karen St. Germain said the interim report meets the deadline. The panel will meet again in the coming weeks to get “further information necessary to make final recommendations,” St. Germain, D-Pierre Part, said. It will be up to legislators to decide what proposals they may want to pursue.
The report is a compilation of ideas discussed during the group’s four prior meetings.
Today, motorists pay 38.4 cents per gallon in state and federal taxes. The state taxes include 16 cents per gallon for rank-and-file projects and 4 cents per gallon for 16 projects voters approved in 1989.
None of the panel’s recommendations involve increases in state gasoline taxes to generate the extra transportation dollars. Instead, there are recommendations for outside funding, i.e., private sector or local government, and putting a higher priority on transportation needs in the state’s capital construction budget as well as when it comes to use of excess mineral revenues.
Under current law, excess mineral revenues above $850 million go into the state Budget Stabilization Fund, also known as its “rainy day” fund.
If the cap was raised, Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Robert Adley said the extra dollars could be put into roads.
The state is using the excess stabilization funding today, Adley, R-Benton, said. The transfer has been suspended because of budget problems but will begin again in 2017.
In the future, the money “could be put into roads without looking at tax increases,” he said.
Adley said the task force should add a caution note to the idea of replacing the current 16-cent gas tax with an 8-cent sales tax.
“Today, it would be less money than the current collections because of declining oil and gas,” Adley said.
Adley continued to push for some short-term steps such as steering more gasoline tax dollars into road preservation and cutting back on the $60 million in transportation dollars going to State Police.