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Photo property of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber 

The bill for a gas tax is back, and backed by groups like The Louisiana Coalition To Fix Our Roads and the Baton Rouge Area Chamber.

Rep. Steve Carter of Baton Rouge sponsored House Bill 542, which proposes a gradual 18 cent increase to Louisiana’s gas tax.

The Baton Rouge Area Chamber released an analysis of gas tax increases in conservative states, those that voted for President Donald Trump in the 2016 election, on Thursday, April 25. Of those states, 19 have raised gas taxes between 3 cents and 19 cents per gallon. An additional four are considering increases between 8 cents and 45 cents per gallon. 

Louisiana’s 20-cent-per-gallon gas tax hasn’t been increased since the 1980s. Neighbors Alabama and Georgia have seen increases of 10 cents and 19 cents per gallon, respectively.

“This map is eye-opening. We are allowing Louisiana to fall behind on economic development by not investing in our infrastructure. The Baton Rouge Area business community is asking for action,” Randy Cangelosi, chair of BRAC’s Board of Directors and partner at Kean Miller, said. “If not now, when will elected officials think is the right moment for Louisiana to compete? We are asking Louisiana’s leaders to learn what other conservative states know: that infrastructure development is economic development.”

Two years ago Rep. Carter’s gas tax increase proposal (House Bill 632) died quietly, without even a debate in the House of Representatives.

Carter had proposed the bill on behalf of Gov. John Bel Edwards and Shawn Wilson, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development. However, Gov. Edwards has kept his distance from the debate this round.

Wilson discussed the could-have-been of the 2017 gas tax proposal during a West Baton Rouge Chamber of Commerce luncheon last year.

Backers and opponents of House Bill 542 flocked to the State Capitol Tuesday, but the legislation was not on the agenda. It is unclear when the House Ways & Means Committee will hear the bill.

Carter’s proposal ensures funds collected will be dedicated to new infrastructure construction and maintenance. It also takes funding from the transportation trust fund, which pays for DOTD employee pensions and benefits and dedicates them to construction. This change would give legislators more oversight of DOTD’s budget, BRAC said.

Among the critical projects named in the bill are the new South Mississippi River Bridge and connectors to the Capital Area and the widening of I-12 to six lanes.

“Louisiana’s roads are consistently ranked among the worst in the nation. In 2019, DOTD closed 19 bridges because of structural deficiency,” Liz Smith, BRAC’s senior vice president for economic competitiveness said. “Conservatives don’t like taxes, but red states across the country are endorsing gas tax increases, figuring out ways to ensure the money is protected and used correctly, and keeping their economies growing. It’s time for Louisiana to join them.”

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