A bid to let voters in East Baton Rouge and four other parishes enact their own gas tax narrowly failed Tuesday in a Louisiana House committee.
The proposal, House Bill 178, would let voters statewide decide whether to lift the prohibition against local governments implementing their own gasoline tax, on top of the state and federal levies.
Parishes that would then earn that right are East Baton Rouge, Ascension, Livingston, Iberville and West Baton Rouge.
All five are near daily hot spots for traffic tieups, especially around the newest Mississippi River Bridge.
But the House Ways and Means Committee rejected the plan, with seven members in favor and eight opposed.
Seven months after their push for a hike in the state gas tax died, road and bridge advocates are scrambling to see what, if any, other option…
Shawn Wilson, secretary for the state Department of Transportation and Development, said while roads and bridges need money he is "deathly afraid" that the plan could derail future efforts to address transportation needs statewide.
The concern, Wilson said, is that voters in urban areas would lose interest in statewide solutions if their local needs were addressed.
"My biggest concern is what does this do for the future of the state of Louisiana?" Wilson said.
The legislation faced major hurdles, even it had won committee approval.
It requires the support of two-thirds of the House and Senate, and a majority of voters statewide, to take effect.
After that, local governments would have to compile their own plans, and submit them to voters, to enact a new gas tax.
Motorists pay 38.4 cents per gallon, including 20 cents in state charges.
Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, who was allied with Wilson last year in a push for a 17-cent hike in the state gas tax, said his bill is another way to tackle road and bridge needs.
The sponsor of a failed bill to raise Louisiana's gasoline tax said Monday the state should consider other options to improve roads and bridge…
"The most important thing about this bill is it gives people an opportunity to vote," Carter said.
He said any effort to ease transportation problems statewide is three or four years off because of political and other concerns.
The death of the push to raise Louisiana's gasoline tax not only ended the issue for 2017.
"I am not sure we can pass what we attempted to try to do last year in a timely fashion to solve the problem," Carter said.
Carter's 2017 bid to boost the gas tax died without a vote on the House or Senate floors.
Each penny of the state gas tax raises about $30 million per year.
Wilson noted that local efforts to enact a gas tax would likely generate a fraction of $30 million yearly, and would make more sense as a financing mechanism to finish projects, not launch them.
Backers of the bill included GNO Inc., Louisiana Municipal Association and the Police Jury Association of Louisiana.
Opponents included representatives of big trucks – the Louisiana Motor Transit Association.