Gas tax bill aims to eliminate $14B backlog in road and bridge projects

Louisiana

BATON ROUGE, La. — At upcoming Louisiana bill aims to bring the first hike to gas taxes the state has seen since 1984. Louisiana currently has the seventh-lowest gas tax in the country, but critics argue 2021 is not the year to increase the burden on every driver.

If approved, the bill would increase the gas tax from the 20 cents a gallon the state currently now to 30 cents in its first year followed by two cents increases every other year to account for inflation until 42 cents are reached in 2033.

It’s not easy to see eye to eye when it comes to taxes, but State Representative Jack McFarland is hopeful everyone can agree it’s time to do something about Louisiana’s roads and bridges.

“It’s a bold plan. It’s radical, but it’s common sense,” explained Jack McFarland, Republican State Representative for District 13.

Opponents only partially agree. “I think any bill that more than doubles Louisianan’s gas tax that they’re already paying, especially when so many are struggling and out of work right now, will be too radical,” said James Lee, Deputy State Director of Americans for Prosperity Louisiana.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, since 2013, 30 states have enacted legislation to increase gas taxes. McFarland said Louisiana has not altered its sole funding for roads and bridges in over 30 years.

“I do think Louisiana is behind,” McFarland stated. “Every state is doing multiple things. Where Louisiana only simply focuses on gas tax, other states are looking at gas tax, in addition to sales tax, in addition to tolls. Everyone is being innovative.”

In addition to the 22 cents a gallon increase over 10 years, the proposal would cap current Department of Transportation & Development spending and take back 4 cents of the existing tax which would accompany the new tax dollars in a sub-fund dedicated by voters solely for construction and preservation of roads and bridges.

The plan should eliminate a $14B backlog in projects using 5 to one match with federal dollars, so if the state could provide $200M in funding, $1B in federal funding would match it.

Projections estimate the bill bringing in an additional $300M in taxes in its first year, with an eventual $660M a year by 2033. However, groups like Americans for Prosperity see the proposal falling short of a two-thirds majority approval and failing like other gas bills in 2017 and 2019.

“I think you’ll see at the end of the day that Louisianans don’t want to see another tax increase and that this effort will fail once again,” argued Lee.

McFarland admits what every detail of is plan is still fluid. The reason it was announced in November was to have five months to gather input from citizens and lawmakers ahead of the vote. Already, he’s hoping to add a sunset clause based of feedback.

“We want input, and that’s what we’ve been getting. We’ve been hearing from the public. Some that are sharing their thoughts and their ideas, proposals they think we can do differently, and I’m confident that we come up with a good solution that will save Louisiana money, stimulate our economy, and improve our daily lives with our families simply by improving our roads and bridges,” McFarland concluded.

If this additional gas revenue was generated in Louisiana, it would cost an estimated $400 dollars a year per vehicle in gas. As McFarland put it, the initial 10 cents accounts for about a bottle of water each time you fill-up.

Electric vehicles are also accounted for with a $400 annual fee at registration. Hybrid vehicles would pay $200.

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