La. lawmaker's bill gives local governments power to boost gas tax

One lawmaker wants local governments to be able to set their own gas tax (Source: WAFB)
One lawmaker wants local governments to be able to set their own gas tax (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Desperate times call for desperate measures. Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, says he's tired of the gridlock and wants to get the Red Stick moving. "It's not fair to the citizens. It's not fair to people who travel through our city," he said.

Last year, Carter failed to convince his fellow lawmakers to increase the state gas tax to help pay for the backlog of state road projects and improvements. Now, he's pitching a new idea, giving local governments the power to raise the tax on fuel instead.

For example, in the capital region, they could boost the gas tax to help cover the costs of a new Mississippi River Bridge. Meanwhile, people in other parts of the state where they do not have to deal with Baton Rouge traffic would not have to pay.

"Nobody wants to tax, and I don't want to tax. I'm Republican. I don't like taxing, but I do want to find in a practical way to solve the problem," Carter said.

But the head of DOTD says not so fast. Sec. Shawn Wilson said it's important to keep expectations in check, especially when it comes to the new bridge, estimated to cost about $800 million. "One penny of gas tax is only $30 million across the entire state and to narrow that down to five parishes, it's going to be difficult to generate enough money to make a significant impact," Wilson said.

There's also a chance drivers may just wait to fuel up until they get to a parish where the gas tax is lower. Wilson says the "sensible" solution is to pass a gas tax boost statewide and start tackling more projects. "Until such time as we really address our problems in a sustainable way, we're going to continue to do patchwork," he said.

However, for now, that patchwork is the only option some see as being politically possible.

The bill comes up for its first vote Tuesday at the capitol. The bill is a constitutional amendment, meaning local governments will not get this power unless the voters statewide say so.

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