With two years to go until voters select Louisiana's next governor, state Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, said he's contemplating a run for the state's top office.
"It's something that I'm having discussions with my family about," Ward, 39, told the Baton Rouge Press Club on Monday.
First elected in 2011, Ward is halfway through his third term and will be ineligible to run for reelection in 2023.
During the regular session that wrapped up in June, he staked out a prominent role helping to shepherd legislation to final passage that will gradually boost state aid for roads and bridges by $300 million per year.
"I think what I have shown in my time in the legislature is that I'll work with anybody and everybody as long as we're trying to work towards the right thing," Ward said.
However, despite those investments, road and bridge projects in Louisiana continue to take far too long to break ground, Ward said.
One reason for that slow pace, Ward argued, is Louisiana's dependency on the federal government to fund its infrastructure projects. Roughly 80% of Louisiana's road and bridge projects are paid for with federal dollars and require time-intensive studies.
As an example, Ward pointed to a small bridge in rural Pointe Coupee Parish that needed to be replaced. It cost about $500,000, but because the only funding available was from the federal government, it took close to two years to complete.
"This is something that could've been done in a matter of months, but because the money available for it was tied to federal funds, it had to go through ... about an 18-month study and do all these things for something that just needed to be replaced," Ward said.
Ward said Louisiana should work toward increasing the amount of state dollars it spends on infrastructure so it can more quickly complete projects. The average state relies on the federal government for around 45% of its infrastructure costs, Ward said.
If he enters the gubernatorial contest, Ward will likely face off against Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser and Attorney General Jeff Landry, both Republicans who have hinted they might run for the state's top office. Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, is term-limited and can't run for reelection.