BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Baton Rouge Republican Rep. Steve Carter shelved his bill that would have raised the gas tax by 18 cents over the next 12 years on Monday, May 20.
Carter, whose term limited, has repeatedly sponsored gas tax legislation during his time in the capitol. He said it’s too late in this session to push House Bill 542 through the legislative process.
“Across Louisiana, we have horrible congestion, crumbling roads, and thousands of unsafe bridges,” Carter said. “This problem gets larger and more expensive every single year we fail to address it.”
State lawmakers established the current 16-cent rate in 1989. The bill’s proponents have consistently argued that rate does not bring in enough money to meet modern demands.
“We came here to be bold,” Carter said. “And we’ve waited 30 years to be bold.”
Carter’s bill would have raised the tax by six cents in 2019, and increased the total tax by 2 cents each alternating year until 2031. It would have also taxed electric cars, hybrids, and increased the diesel tax.
The bill would have required DOTD to prioritize some money for specific construction projects, including a new Mississippi River bridge in Baton Rouge.
But the tax hike faced strong opposition on the House’s tax committee, where some lawmakers said their constituents don’t trust the Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) to manage the money.
Carter’s bill would have restructured DOTD’s budget so they could not spend Transportation Trust Fund dollars on employee benefits and retirement costs.
“We have to move forward with the reform part before we can build the confidence with our constituents to be able to get a new tax,” Rep. John Stefanski, R-Crowley, said.
Lawmakers also said their constituents believe the state has enough money to build roads and bridges, instead needing to prioritize construction.
“How is the current money being used? What is the priority system? How does a road qualify? Why does a road qualify? We don’t know that and our constituents don’t know that,” said Rep. Mike Huval, R-Breaux Bridge.
After shelving his bill, Carter challenged the next governor to call a special legislative session after the fall election to address infrastructure problems “as the first thing you do when you get in office.”
“That should be the number one campaign issue," he said. “Hopefully, whoever the governor is, they’ll have the courage to call a special session and fix this problem.”