As I travel the state, people tell me traffic is deadlocked, bridges are unsafe and we need more lanes on our interstates. Here is the deal: We are in this situation because transportation funding is at a standstill. It will take new money and a lot of courage to get things moving again.
As our roads and bridges deteriorate, it becomes more expensive to repair and replace them. Since 2012, at least 15 states have raised taxes to address their transportation infrastructure needs. States led by fiscally conservative Republicans have recognized that raising taxes for transportation infrastructure now will save money later.
Louisiana’s 20 cent gas tax was last raised in 1989. In today’s dollars, this tax has the purchasing power of less than 7 cents. The cost of construction and inflation have driven transportation project costs up, all while more fuel-efficient vehicles have driven gas tax revenues down. Yet, demand for new transportation infrastructure grows, and our existing infrastructure is reaching its maximum life cycle.
The American Society of Civil Engineers 2012 State Report Card for Louisiana’s Infrastructure gave our bridges a D+ and our roads a D. Businesses looking at our economic development corridors need to see that we are addressing these dismal grades. It will take new dollars dedicated solely to transportation infrastructure to do this.
My House Bill 778 would implement a 1 cent sales tax and dedicate monies generated to 16 specific new infrastructure projects in economic development corridors across the state, such as adding new lanes to existing highways to address capacity needs and building new bridges. If implemented, this tax is estimated to generate approximately $675 million a year. If we wait another year, we will lose out on $675 million, and the costs of these projects will rise even further. Passing this tax would tell businesses that we are serious about addressing their needs now and not later.
But, we can’t just build new projects and ignore existing infrastructure. That is why I filed House Bill 777, which calls for a floating additional gas tax based on the average price per gallon of gas. A 10-cent increase in our existing gas tax could raise an additional $300 million a year. This additional revenue would be placed in the Transportation Trust Fund to address the $12 billion backlog of run-of-the-mill but long overdue transportation infrastructure projects. If we wait another year, the state will lose out on $300 million worth of desperately needed projects. We can’t kick the can down the road any further because it is stuck in a pot hole. New monies are the only way to dig it out.
Karen St. Germain
state representative, District 60