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DOTD Secretary Shawn Wilson discusses the governor's task force recommendations to boost state aid for roads and bridges by $700 million per year Monday Feb. 20, 2017, in Baton Rouge, La.

Shawn Wilson, secretary for the state Department of Transportation and Development, said Friday a tweet he sent after the death of a bill to raise the state gas tax was apparently misinterpreted by 19 House Republicans who blasted the message.

The lawmakers, including two House leaders, sent a letter to Gov. John Bel Edwards on Thursday that accused Wilson of threatening retaliation against lawmakers who opposed the increase, which Wilson and the governor backed.

Moments after the bill died Wilson tweeted "2 legislators opposing the gas tax already made some requests for road maintenance, the day the bill was pulled. No is the easy answer," he tweeted.

"I want to take this opportunity to clarify that it was not my intent to suggest that DOTD would make decisions about highway projects or requests based on a willingness to support an increase in the gas tax," Wilson said.

"When it was brought to my attention that the tweet was being misinterpreted, I quickly pulled it down," he said.

Wilson said that, without the money to support roads and bridges, DOTD's ability to give positive responses to requests will be limited.

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"The 'No is the easy answer' from my tweet was specifically intended to convey the lack of resources within the department oftentimes can only lead to an answer of 'no,'" he said.

Wilson and other backers of a boost in the state gas tax repeatedly cited Louisiana's $13.1 billion backlog of road, bridge and other transportation needs.

Opponents said DOTD needs to do a better job of managing its current dollars, and they argued that taxpayers were opposed to a tax hike.

Lawmakers who criticized the tweet generally opposed the increase, including Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, chairman of the House GOP caucus and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Cameron Henry, R-Metairie.

The legislators said Wilson's tweet sounded like the "Washington-style politics" that Edwards often decries.

The bid to raise the gas tax died on Wednesday when Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, withdrew a bill that would have increased it by 17 cents per gallon, raising $510 million annually.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell.