BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Louisiana drivers are one step closer to seeing an increase in the gas tax, but there's still a long way to go.
Governor John Bel Edwards assembled an 18-member task force to tackle the state's transportation and infrastructure needs. In July, the Governor asked the group to come up with solutions by the end of the year.
On Tuesday, December 13, the group presented its recommendations that will go before the Governor and the State Legislature next year. Some of the potential solutions include an increased gas tax, vehicle permits, and vehicle registration for commercial vehicles only.
Louisiana's gas tax has not been adjusted since 1989. Right now, the taxes are .20 cents per gallon. The task force has not said exactly how much of an increase it would be. It could depend on indexing it to the construction index or fuel efficiency.
"The public has to have a broader appreciation of transportation, much wider than the roads they travel or the perceptions that they have. Folks tend to think that a gas tax is a huge increase on them. In reality, the gas tax only produces $30 million for one penny. Unfortunately the cost of construction has not kept up with inflation. The 16 cents we're charging today we were charging nearly 30 years ago and it wasn't indexed so we've lost about 50 percent of its value," said Louisiana DOTD Secretary Shawn D. Wilson.
There are many opponents for raising taxes but transportation leaders said the reality is that it is going to take money to repair the roads and bridges that taxpayers drive on and use every day.
Wilson said raising funds for road and bridge projects not only helps motorists but it also affects commerce in the state.
"The most important thing is if folks don't want to invest in transportation, you will continue to sit in traffic. You will continue to experience congestion and you will not see the big transformative projects. And I'm not talking about just a new bridge, I'm talking about an expansion of additional plants in the river region because that's what this is about," said Wilson. "I visited with a local company down there that employs thousands of people and they shared with me that the competition for funds within their company is based on things like mobility. We will continue to see traffic jams on I-10 in Baton Rouge that's going to affect commerce from Long Beach, California to Miami, Florida if we don't address this."
They are also recommending preservation projects dedicated to maintaining existing roads, specifically because it's more cost effective.
The recommendations are based on scientific studies on what works in other states and what doesn't.
The 2017 Legislative session starts on April 10, 2017.
For more information on the task force, click HERE.