BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — The Louisiana Legislature’s annual session doesn’t start until April, but one lawmaker is already getting his proposed gasoline tax hike into gear.
State Rep. Jack McFarland plans to file his proposal — the Government Reform in Transportation (or GRIT) Act — in the coming months. The Jonesboro Republican, who has opposed previous gas tax proposals, argues that failure to act would hurt Louisiana roads and bridges — and business.
“When you have bridges closed, bridges reduced, roads that are crumbling, that adds maintenance not just to my business, but also to the private citizen,” McFarland said.
Louisiana drivers currently pay an average of 38.4 cents a gallon in taxes, with 20 cents going to the state.
McFarland’s plan would raise the state’s tax by 10 cents in the first year, then gradually every other year until 2033, ultimately leaving the rate 22 cents higher than it is today.
Current projections show the proposal adding $300 million to the Department of Transportation and Development’s purse within a year, then $660 million a year by 2033 — enough to shrink much of the state’s $14 billion infrastructure backlog by then.
Of the new revenue, 60% would fund maintenance projects for existing roads and bridges, while the other 40% would address new projects.
Louisiana’s gas tax rate has remained unchanged for more than 30 years, largely due to hesitation among fiscal conservatives. McFarland hopes to win them over by capping the DOTD’s overhead spending from the state’s Transportation Trust Fund. The proposal also calls on yearly audits of the transportation agency.
“It’s a fundamental effort to reform DOTD the way the money is dispersed and expended,” he said. “There’s no more money to take from Peter to pay Paul.”
Passing the bill would require support from two-thirds of the state House and Senate.
Legislators will start their two-month regular session in mid-April.