BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The president's call for a big investment in infrastructure may not be a solution for Louisiana's road problems, according to state leaders.
During his State of the Union address, President Donald Trump asked Congress to "produce a bill that generates at least $1.5 trillion for the new infrastructure investment that our country so desperately needs."
Louisiana's road troubles are no secret. Congestion ties up the capital region and other streets need repairs. However, when it comes to the president's proposal, Sec. Shawn Wilson says the Bayou State is "totally unprepared."
Although still vague, Trump said his plan would require states to put up some money to get a hold of those federal dollars. That's money that Wilson says Louisiana just does not have. "Without an increase in funding, we will not have enough money to match all the federal funds that are available. That is a reality," he said.
Wilson believes that if state legislators had passed the proposed boost to the state gas tax during last spring's session, Louisiana would be better positioned for any new infrastructure plan. A 17 cent per gallon increase, for example, would have generated about $500 million each year.
"More than half the states around the country have adjusted their gas taxes since 2012. We haven't adjusted ours since 30 years ago," Wilson said.
Louisiana currently has a backlog of more than $13 billion in infrastructure repairs, in addition to a $15 billion wish list of new mega-projects, including a bridge.
Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, remains frustrated after last year's gas tax failed. He says the president's plan is "another wake up call" for the state. "At this point Louisiana will be left out," he said. James says he, along with East Baton Rouge Councilman Buddy Amoroso, are looking for ways that private businesses could possibly partner with the state and the feds to work on roads.
However, a private-public partnership is likely a long shot. Wilson says there are very few roads that could be tolled – one way to pay back a private company for their investment.
Congress, of course, must pass any infrastructure investment plan. So far, there is no indication that will happen any time soon.