Edwards signs infrastructure funding bill prioritizing new Baton Rouge bridge

Louisiana will shift up to $300 million in taxes charged annually on the sales of new cars and trucks to roadwork, under a bill Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law today, handing a victory to Senate leaders who pushed for the boosted transportation funding.

The dollars will be removed from the state general fund where they help to pay for health care, education, public safety services and other government operations. The shift will be phased in over two years starting in mid-2023, with some provisions for cutting the size of the transfer if the state faces budget gaps.  

Certain projects are specifically given priority for the new transportation funding, including a new Mississippi River bridge in Baton Rouge, replacement of the Interstate 10 bridge in Calcasieu Parish, expansion of Interstate 49 in the southern part of the state and widening of I-12 from Baton Rouge to the Mississippi state line. 

Edwards’ decision on the measure—which was passed on the final day of the Legislature’s regular session earlier this month—had been uncertain. The Democratic governor had expressed concern about creating budget gaps across state services by reshuffling the vehicle sales tax money to road and bridge work. But Senate President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, and other GOP Senate leaders argued that the state needed to do more to bolster transportation funding and chip away at a multibillion-dollar backlog of infrastructure work.

Adam Knapp, head of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, praised the bill signing as making Louisiana’s first “serious, long-term investment in its infrastructure” in decades.

“With this rededication of dollars, Louisiana can begin to build back its infrastructure to compete for the jobs and talent that depend on it,” Knapp said in a statement.

“The investment that will be created by this legislation begins—in a major way—to strengthen Louisiana’s position on infrastructure compared to its peer states,” says Bryan Jones, vice president of Baton Rouge-based infrastructure solutions firm HNTB. “Nearly all states in America have increased state funding for roads and bridges in the last 10 years.”

While legislative leaders were pleased with Edwards’ signature on the highly sought bill, it is not likely to end the drumbeat for a mid-July veto session for lawmakers to consider overturning the governor’s rejections of other measures that won strong bipartisan support. 

Read more about the infrastructure bill and the possible veto session.