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Strategy to shore up La's economy with proposed gas tax hike faces opposition

1 month 3 weeks 16 hours ago Wednesday, November 25 2020 Nov 25, 2020 November 25, 2020 11:29 AM November 25, 2020 in News
Source: The Advocate

BATON ROUGE - Louisiana drivers currently pay 38.4 cents per gallon at the pump, including 20 cents in state charges and a group led by former state Rep. Erich Ponti wants to change that.

Ponti is hoping to see the Legislature gradually raise the state's gas tax by an additional 22 cents per gallon, The Advocate reports.

As executive director of the Louisiana Asphalt Pavement Association, Ponti believes an increased gas tax of about $660 million annually would provide the state with much-needed funding for highway and bridge repairs.

Some analysts agree that should an increase in gas tax provide additional funding for such projects, it would likewise provide Louisiana with more construction and engineering jobs. 

For example, Elizabeth Smith, vice-president for economic competitiveness for BRAC, concurred that Ponti's proposed gas tax hike would lead to an increase in jobs at a time when they would be sorely needed.

Smith said she anticipates that in 2021 many state governments will find themselves on the lookout for additional streams of revenue to make up for losses triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.  

That said, versions of Ponti's proposal have been shot down by lawmakers in both 2017 and 2019.

The Advocate reports that with over 320,000 of Louisianans out of work amid the COVID-19 pandemic, some official feel the tax hike would put too much of a financial burden on citizens. 

James Lee, deputy state director of the Virginia-based Americans For Prosperity-Louisiana told The Advocate, ""Erich Ponti heads the Asphalt Pavement Association and is only interested in seeing the state spend more money, not spending it well or giving Louisianans the transparency they deserve. This new gas tax push will fail once again, not just because it's a bad idea but because it continues to deny transparency."

The proposed tax increase would, if implemented, initially raise the tax by 10 cents per gallon and over time, to 22 cents. 

In addition to this, the bill would designate 60% of the money for highway and bridge preservation and 40% for new projects.

If passed, it would also require the Louisiana Legislative Auditor to evaluate DOTD's effectiveness and competence before making recommendations for savings.

It remains to be seen if the proposed increase to Louisiana's gas tax will gain traction among lawmakers.

Ponti, however, feels sure in the plan's effectiveness as a means to boosting the state's revenue. 

"It is a very critical time to have that kind of investment," Pointi said. "Not to mention that it has been 30 years since we had that kind of investment."

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