Almost universal concern from typically pro-transportation-tax advocates—including the bill’s author—is prompting state Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, to amend a provision of his gas tax bill.
Raising eyebrows is a provision that would redirect general fund revenue from a temporary, half-cent sales tax, set to expire in 2025, into a sub-fund of the Transportation Trust Fund. The move guarantees tax revenues will be used for specific construction projects.
While advocates generally like how the bill dedicates money to specifically named projects, they don’t like the inclusion of the half-cent sales tax in the bill’s language.
“I’d rather have the bill as a standalone,” says Carter, who says the provision was added at the last minute. “I don’t want to muddy the waters. There’s no reason to try to add more to it than we need.”
In its current iteration, Carter’s bill would eventually raise more than $1 billion a year for critically needed highway projects—including a new Mississippi River bridge in Baton Rouge—by raising the state’s tax on gasoline and diesel, imposing fees on electric and hybrid vehicles, and redirecting the temporary sales tax dollars.
Carter says he isn’t sure whether he’ll call for the amendment to delete the entire provision or to revise part of it. Either way, he adds, it’ll be handled in the House Committee on Ways and Means.
Business groups are, for now, holding off on taking a position on the bill, saying they’ll stay engaged as details are worked out.
The Baton Rouge Area Chamber, which has said a gas tax increase is one of its legislative priorities, acknowledges it still has some issues with the bill, but declines to specify what it finds troubling.
“We strongly support a whole lot of what’s in the bill, but have some concerns about one or two of the provisions,” says Liz Smith, BRAC’s senior vice president of economic competitiveness, in a prepared statement. “That doesn’t change our steadfast call for increased investment in transportation infrastructure.”
The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, meanwhile, will debate the issue next week when its Transportation Issue Council meets.