A Louisiana task force met for the first time September 10 to compose recommendations on how the state can boost investment in roads and bridges. The eight-member group was created by the state legislature earlier this year and is tasked with finding a way to fund Louisiana’s $10 billion backlog of transportation infrastructure projects. The panel consists of four lawmakers, the state transportation secretary, and representatives from the construction and engineering industries.
Several options were touched upon during Wednesday’s inaugural meeting, including a mileage-based user fee known as a Vehicle-Miles-Traveled (VMT), indexing the state gas tax to inflation, and simply raising the tax. However, both Sherri LeBas, the State Department of Transportation and Development Secretary, and Governor Bobby Jindal (R) oppose additional taxes.
An additional idea discussed was decreasing the amount of “diversions” from state gas tax revenues. Louisiana’s 20-cent-per-gallon state gas tax generated $587.3 million in 2013, but a large portion was spent on state police, ports and airports. The state spends only $27 million annually to maintain its highways. Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Robert Adley (R-Benton) stated that at least $70 million per year is needed for highway preservation and repairs, on top of the funds needed to accomplish the backlog of transportation infrastructure projects.
Another topic of discussion started by Sec. LeBas was a state law redirecting revenues from vehicle sales tax and truck-trailer license fees to road funding that was passed in 2008. The anticipated $400 million is not expected to become available until 2020. According to Adley, the money would be too little, too late. “The general public would believe that we’re going to have plenty of money, and I disagree with you. I don’t think that’s going to happen,” he said. “In six years’ time, the problems would multiply dramatically. Waiting until then is next to impossible.”
Recommendations from the Transportation Funding Task Force are due January 15, 2015.
See below for a list of Louisiana’s Transportation Funding Task Force members:
Rep. Karen St. Germain (D- Pierre), chairwoman of the House Transportation Committee
Sen. Robert Adley (R-Benton), chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee
Senate President John Alario (R-Westwego)
House Speaker Chuck Kleckley (R-Lake Charles)
State Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Sherri LeBas
Kam Movassaghi, former secretary of Louisiana’s Department of Transportation and representing the American Society of Civil Engineers and the American Council of Engineering Companies
Kenneth Perret, president of the Louisiana Good Roads and Transportation Association