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Audit: TTF Contributes to Slowing Road Work

A new report from the Louisiana Legislative Auditor says revenue coming into the state’s Transportation Trust Fund is not keeping pace with the state’s highway needs.

The report, compiled for informational purposes at the request of the Legislature, states, “With a significant rise in the costs of construction, a decline in federal funds, and only modest growth in state funding, there is concern that the TTF may not be able to address the transportation infrastructure needs of the state.”

It’s an issue that has troubled members of both the House and Senate Transportation committees, and one that has been raised with the candidates for governor during several forums, including one this past weekend.

“The Transportation Trust Fund has not done what it told the people of Louisiana we were going to do, and use that money to make sure we improve our roads and bridges and highways,” Jay Dardenne said during the candidates’ forum put on by the Louisiana State Troopers Association on Saturday.

While the questions at that event did not specifically ask about the state’s $12-billion backlog of roadwork projects, those running for governor were asked about the State Police share of TTF, which is being cut back as a result of Act 380 of the 2015 legislative session.

“People want to see that going to building infrastructure,” David Vitter said. “In contrast, last year, only 11 percent of Transportation Trust Fund revenue went to repairing roads and bridges.”

The auditor’s report notes State Police have received between 7 and 12 percent of total TTF revenues each of the past four years, totaling $202.5-million. Scott Angelle told state troopers that is something that should be changed.

“The idea that you are part of TTF, I think, is actually bad public policy,” Angelle said. “Because what it says is you’re not important enough to be funded from the first of the fruits of our General Fund.”

The legislative auditor’s report says that the Transportation Trust Fund is being spent in accordance with the law, but the fuel tax revenues that feed the fund just aren’t keeping up with rising construction costs, interest for the bonds that fund the priority Capital Outlay projects, nor the backlog of needed road repairs.

“You’re never going to get ahead if you keep doing what you’ve been doing, and what you’ve been doing is pretending to do more with less,” John Bel Edwards said. “If you can always do more with less, pretty soon you can do everything for nothing, right?”

The report evaluates several potential revenue sources for increasing Transportation Trust Fund, including raising motor fuel taxes.