Transportation bill to build new Mississippi River Bridge dies on House Floor

Transportation bill to build new MS River Bridge dies on House floor

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Rep. Karen St. Germain, D-Plaquemine, called it one of session's most important bills, but for drivers going through Baton Rouge there will be no plan to build a new bridge over the Mississippi for at least another year.

"We've kicked that can down the road so long, that we're still digging it out of the pothole. Our highways and bridges have gone to hell in a handbasket," said Rep. St. Germain.

After passing a House committee three weeks ago, Rep. St. Germain's new bridge bill failed to pass the full House Thursday. It was 18 votes shy of a 2/3 majority, the legal requirement for raising the sales tax.

The tax would have raised $675 million a year, putting $100 million into the Transportation Trust Fund. But Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, who voted against the measure, says the trust fund needs fixed before the bill should be advanced.

"We are spending now about $80 million a year that's in the Transportation Trust Fund on things unrelated to highways and bridges," said Rep. Edwards.

To Rep. St. Germain, Rep. Edwards' vote in opposition was a disappointment. She says he originally supported the bill and that he changed his mind.

"People who were affected by this particular investment chose at the last minute to flip," said Rep. St. Germain.

But when asked directly if he changed his opinion on the bill, Rep. Edwards said "that is absolutely incorrect."

Rep. Edwards says he backs the idea that lawmakers need to address transportation issues, but he says he never gave Rep. St. Germain his word that she had his vote.

"I don't believe I ever committed myself one way or the other. I told her I would continue to study it and evaluate it," said Rep. Edwards.

"They have to go back to their people now and explain that they didn't think these infrastructures were important enough," said Rep. St. Germain.

After the new bridge bill failed, Rep. St. Germain decided not to present another transportation bill. It was a $.10 increase to the gas tax she says would raise $300 million a year.

Rep. St. Germain tells 9News she will take up that bill again at a later date this session when she believes she can get a 2/3 majority.

Copyright 2015 WAFB. All rights reserved.