Gov. John Bel Edwards said Friday that, while Louisiana faces huge road and bridge problems, he is not ready to spell out how much he will recommend to improve transportation.
"You are going to hear from us soon," Edwards said in a 20-minute address to transportation and other groups.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday state budget problems mean it would be "very difficult"…
"I want you to know my support for transportation is unyielding," he said. "We want to be bold."
A task force named by the governor in December recommended a $700 million yearly increase in road and bridge spending.
While a special panel named by Gov. John Bel Edwards has called for $700 million a year in …
The panel also said an increase in the state gasoline tax is the most reliable way to raise the money.
The tax would have to rise by 23 cents to generate nearly $700 million annually, if that is the sole source.
The governor and lawmakers are embroiled in a special session to find ways to address a $304 million shortfall for the financial year that ends June 30.
Shawn Wilson, secretary for the state Department of Transportation and Development, told the group after Edwards spoke that issues surrounding the special session delayed an announcement on the administration's transportation package.
If the governor unveiled a sweeping proposal in the midst of arguments over spending cuts, including transportation, chances for passage could be crippled, officials at the meeting said.
The transportation debate will unfold in the 2017 regular session, which begins on April 10.
Edwards noted that Louisiana is ranked 8th worst in the U. S. for pavement conditions, 3rd worst on structurally deficient bridges and he said DOTD has closed eight bridges this year because of deficiencies.
"And that follows a record number of (closed) bridges last year," he said.
"We can point to 30 years of inaction that led to where we are today," Edwards said.
The meeting was held by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Louisiana, Louisiana Associated General Contractors and the Louisiana Asphalt Pavement Association, among others.
The governor said he has been surprised at partisan disputes over the need for road and bridge improvements.
He said he has kept transportation promises he made in 2015, including more capital improvement dollars for transportation, increased spending for ports and an end to transferring road and bridge dollars to State Police.
"I know that is not enough," Edwards told the group.
The state faces a $13 billion backlog of rank-and-file needs and a $16 billion list of "mega" projects, including a new bridge across the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge.
However, any tax hikes will require the support of two thirds of the House and Senate, always a tall order and especially so amid budget-related bickering in the past 13 months.
"It just doesn't have to be that way," the governor said.
Edwards is a Democrat. The Legislature is controlled by Republicans.
"I need your help," he said. "I need the help of everybody in this room. We can't just keep pushing it down the road."
Some lawmakers, including House Transportation Committee Chairman Kenny Havard, R-St. Francisville, have questioned whether taxpayers would back a major hike in the gasoline tax.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, is skeptical about relying on a big tax increase to make transportation repairs.
That panel would be a key stop for any legislation to boost state aid for roads and bridges.
Motorists pay 38.4 cents per gallon in state and federal taxes, including 20 cents in state taxes.
However, five of those 20 pennies are used to pay off the debt from a 1989 bond issue called TIMED.