La. legislator shelves bill boosting state's gas tax

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A Louisiana legislator pulled his bill boosting the state's gas tax without putting it up for a vote on the House floor.

Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baston Rouge, shelved HB 632, citing insufficient support. Tax increase bills require 70 votes on the House floor. He said he only had around 60 House members in support.

"This nonsense has hurt the people of the Baton Rouge area and it's hurt the state - you can tell I'm frustrated," Carter said during a fiery speech on the House floor as he admitted defeat.

Carter's bill would have originally increased the state's gas tax by 17 cents per gallon. That would have generated more than a half a billion dollars for the state each year.

Hoping to reach a compromise, he floated the idea of raising it by just 10 cents per gallon, which would have dropped the annual revenue for the state to about $300 million. However, many Republicans still balked.

"It's shame that we're controlled by people that live outside our state, that have probably never traveled our roads to experience our problems," said Carter.

The Baton Rouge lawmaker blamed his bill's failure in part on the nationally-backed conservative group, Americans for Prosperity. AFP campaigned hard against the tax boost, with public events and online ads.

However, some Republicans also took to the floor of the House, adamantly declaring the group did not influence their vote.

"I can't stand the people coming up here saying we turned our backs on the people who elected us. The people who elected me said no," said Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport.

The central committee of Louisiana's Republican Party also came out against the tax boost.

Louisiana's state gas tax of 20 cents per gallon has not changed since 1989, making it one of the oldest in the country.

Shawn Wilson, secretary of the Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), says Louisiana currently has a road project backlog totaling more than $13 billion. Added to that, Wilson says the state needs $15 billion to build some mega projects across the state, including a new Mississippi River bridge in Baton Rouge.

Without new funding from an increased gas tax, Carter warned the backlog would continue and there would only be more maintenance issues.

Carter encouraged lawmakers to have an open mind about raising the gas tax in coming years.

Copyright 2017 WAFB. All rights reserved.