Gas tax motors to House, state revenue forecast lowered by $27M

After dark predictions that it wouldn’t survive an initial hearing, a proposed 17-cent increase in the state gas tax is headed to the floor of the House of Representatives. If the trend of support holds, the tax would generate $510 million annually for transportation infrastructure projects statewide. The proposal actually had a few votes to spare following a lengthy hearing today, with the Ways and Means Committee voting 9-7 to keep the concept alive.

The toughest test for the gas tax, however, is yet to come. The House floor, where there are more Republicans than Democrats, will be lobbied hard by groups that lean conservative, like Americans For Prosperity and local tea party organizations. The tide, though, seemed to turn against the opposition today. For example, Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central, who enjoys a good standing with such outfits, voted in favor of the measure after explaining that he was unwilling to wait on the federal government to respond to Louisiana’s transportation needs.

Shawn Wilson, the secretary for the state Department of Transportation and Development, stressed those needs and noted that he has been forced to close 22 bridges so far this year. With the tax increase found in House Bill 632 by Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, Wilson said his department could direct $216 million annually to mega projects and another $137 million per year to maintenance and restoration. “It’s time to act,” Wilson told lawmakers. “It’s time to build”…


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