Proposal by Sen. Rick Ward could fund local road projects

Staff Report

BATON ROUGE – A proposal by state Sen. Rick Ward could allow parishes to decide on a constitutional amendment to tax gasoline sales as a way to fund local road projects.

State Sen. Rick Ward

Ward, R-Port Allen, plans to bring the issue before lawmakers when the state legislature heads into its regular session Monday, April 12.

His proposal would call for a statewide constitutional amendment that would let each parish vote on whether they want to pay a few cents more per gallon at the pump for road prepares or new streets.

“Right now, the constitution prohibits a sales tax on the sale of fuel,” said Ward, who serves as chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. “As it is, you go into a convenience store and you can pay tax on a drink or candy bar, but not on fuel.”

The proposal would give each parish a chance to decide on the option.

He said his proposal could generate a more favorable response from voters as opposed to a statewide measure that may concentrate only on certain parts of the state.

Ward’s proposal is not related to a measure a GOP lawmaker’s bill that would raise the gasoline tax over a 10-year period.

Rep. Jack McFarland, R-Winnfield, will introduce a bill that will raise the gasoline tax 10 cents the first year and add two cents every two years until 2033.

The bill proposes to permanently shift 4 cents of the existing 16 cents of the Transportation Trust Fund directly toward construction projects.

Under the proposal, 60 percent of revenues will go toward preservation projects, repair of broken roads and bridges. It would pump 40 percent towards larger capacity projects.

It would shift 3 cents ($90 million) to the sub-fund in 2021 and a penny ($30 million) to the sub-fund in 2025.

Louisiana’s fuel tax has remained at 38.4 cents per gallon since 1987, but the rate of inflation has diminished its value.

Louisiana has the seventh lowest gasoline tax in the nation. Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi have raised their taxes during the past two years.

Distribution of the newly generated funds for investment would go on a 60/40 split.

The majority share would go to preservation, which includes a rural bridge program.