Alford: State lawmaker pitching highway plan funded through gasoline tax hike 

    In roughly two weeks State Rep. Jack McFarland will hit the road to sell his plan to reform Louisiana’s highway funding formula. His target audience will be lawmakers and administration and transportation officials.

    McFarland, R-Jonesboro, is working on draft legislation that was unveiled last week to the Louisiana Coalition to Fix Our Roads, writes Jeremy Alford in his new opinion piece. While the portion dealing with Louisiana’s 16-cent gasoline tax will garner the most attention, the plan also calls for a comprehensive audit of the Department of Transportation and Development; future legislative action on those findings; and a new focus on preservation, maintenance and regional priorities.

    The Republican representative wants his final bill to instruct the legislative auditor to spend two years or more looking for organizational efficiencies and streamlining opportunities at DOTD. The resulting findings would then be forwarded to a committee of five private sector representatives appointed by the governor, House speaker and Senate president. 

    That private sector committee would be charged with sending recommendations to the Legislature in 2025, at the start of a new term of state government. 

    “There would be an impact on the current term, but the next administration and Legislature would really be in the driver’s seat,” McFarland says. “This will put them in a position to make real reforms and to stop using capital outlay for highway and road needs. This plan would also mean that the temporary sales tax piece that expires next term won’t be needed any longer.”

    The revenue that would create this kind of fiscal freedom would come courtesy of an increase in the gasoline tax of up to 36 cents, phased in gradually through 2033. The bill would also include a $400 annual fee for electric vehicles and a $250 fee for hybrid vehicles.

    Of course, any kind of a tax, no matter the size, will give some conservatives heartburn.

    “With over 320,000 Louisianans losing jobs, raising the gas tax is a bad idea that should stay in 2020,” says James Lee, deputy director for the Louisiana chapter of Americans for Prosperity. “AFP-Louisiana and our grassroots activists across the state will be making sure legislators hear that message loud and clear.” Read Alford’s full column here. 

    Jeremy Alford publishes LaPolitics Weekly, a newsletter on Louisiana politics, at LaPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter, or on Facebook. He can be reached at JJA@LaPolitics.com