Transportation projects bill and gas tax bill pass committees

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - In its first appearance before lawmakers, a bill from Rep. Karen St. Germain had the unanimous support Tuesday of the House Ways and Means Committee.

"We admire your courage getting this going," said Rep. Frank Hoffman, R-West Monroe.

"I would like to commend you my colleague for taking on this monumental task," said Rep. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge

Rep. St. Germain's ten year proposal to add a penny to the sales tax to put toward 16 state transportation projects will go to the house floor.

"We are out of options and this is the only way we will see new infrastructure in the state of Louisiana," said Rep. St. Germain, D-Plaquemine.

Supporters say the time to build is now or construction may never happen, and if that's the case, expect more big business to avoid coming to Louisiana because of the roads.

"We lost a plant, a Shell plant in Ascension Parish. One of the reasons they did not build there was because of infrastructure," said Ken Maquin, CEO of AGC of LA.

The tax would raise $675 million a year. $100 million would be put into a transportation fund and $575 million would build the projects including a new bridge over the Mississippi just downriver from Baton Rouge connecting LA 1 to LA 30.

"The new Mississippi River Bridge is a disaster. I've been caught in that traffic trying to cross the bridge. It has a serious economic impact on the state," said Rep. Eddie Lambert, R-Gonzales.

Another project would add a lane on each side of Interstate 12 for stretches between Livingston Parish and Mandeville.

It's one of two transportation related bills passed Tuesday. Another proposal from Rep. St. Germain is also a ten year tax hike. It adds ten cents to the gas tax, also in an effort to fund state transportation.

"It's not because of us here in the legislature that I want to do this so we can go home and say look what we did. It's about the people who will appreciate it. They drive it everyday," said Rep. St. Germain.

The gas tax hike would raise Louisiana's gas tax from 20 cents to 30 cents, still below the national average.

Rep. St. Germain says it would raise an annual $300 million.

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