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Amid Election Year, Lawmaker Pulls Bill To Raise Gas Tax

Wallis Watkins

A bill to raise the state’s gas tax was shelved Monday, as the bill’s author, Representative Steve Carter (R-Baton Rouge), pointed to the difficulty of trying to raise taxes in an election year. 

Representative Carter told members of the House Ways and Means committee that transportation should be the top campaign issue this year.

Carter urged lawmakers and the governor, "whoever it will be in 2020, whoever our new governor will be or if it’s our current governor, and the Legislature, to call a special session on our infrastructure needs as the first thing you do when you get in office.”

Louisiana has a $14 billion backlog of infrastructure projects. Those projects are partly funded by the gas tax, which is currently 20 cents per gallon. That rate hasn’t changed since 1989 and critics say it’s far short of what’s needed.

Carter’s bill would have raised the gas tax by 18 cents over the course of 12 years. That would eventually set the state gas tax at 38 cents per gallon.

Chance McNeely represents the commercial trucking industry in Louisiana. He says whether it’s retail or agriculture, every sector of the state’s economy relies on trucks getting from point A to point B, “and so when these trucks are sitting in traffic not moving, it’s bad for everybody.”

But opponents, like the Louisiana chapter of Americans for Prosperity, say the state doesn’t need more money, it needs better spending habits.

Representative Mike Huval (R-Breaux Bridge) says his folks want more transparency from the Department of Transportation and Development.

“People, citizens, constituents feel that there is enough money to address the issue right now of our roads.  They feel they pay enough money,” said Representative Huval.

With less than three weeks left in the session, Representative Carter pulled the bill, saying it wouldn’t have had enough time to move through the legislative process.

The session must end by June 6.