BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Though lawmakers spurned recent proposals to raise Louisiana’s stagnant gasoline tax, another Republican legislator is trying to muscle through the idea, hoping he can persuade colleagues that significant new money is needed to attack a multibillion-dollar backlog of road and bridge work.
Rep. Jack McFarland, of Winnfield, faces the same headwinds that jettisoned other efforts to raise taxes at the pump: Anti-tax conservative sentiment in the majority-GOP Legislature, opposition from the Republican Party and the hurdle of a two-thirds House and Senate vote for passage.
But McFarland, a businessman in his second House term, thinks he’s found a winnable approach for the legislative session that begins April 12.
He’s coupling the tax hike, which eventually would raise an extra $600 million-plus yearly, with a package of oversight changes for transportation spending he said will prove dollars are going to projects rather than administrative overhead.
“My bill brings a balance of reform with revenue,” McFarland told the Press Club of Baton Rouge. He described his proposal as “much more conservative” than prior bills because “we’ve added transparency and accountability.”
Louisiana’s backlog of road and bridge work has grown to $15 billion — not counting $13 billion in projects to improve traffic flow and lessen gridlock.
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Melinda Deslatte has covered Louisiana politics for The Associated Press since 2000. Follow her at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte.