The highway advocacy group Driving Louisiana Forward has launched an effort to boost state spending on road and bridge projects by at least $145 million a year.
The Louisiana Legislature approved a bill earlier this year that will add $320 million a year to highway spending by 2015, but Jennifer Marusak, a spokeswoman for the advocacy group, said the state should spend at least another $470 million on roads each year over the next seven years. It is not clear if spending plans include issuing bonds.
At least $600 million a year of additional spending is needed to begin eliminating the state’s backlog of road and bridge projects of some $14 billion, Marusak said.
Driving Louisiana Forward said the state could free up $85 million a year for roads by paying the retirement and health benefits of transportation department workers from state general revenues rather than the highway fund, with another $60 million coming from non-dedicated state oil and gas severance tax revenues.
Louisiana’s basic gasoline tax of 16 cents per gallon has not been raised since 1984. An additional four-cents-per-gallon tax was approved by voters in 1989, but the revenue is dedicated to a special $4.9 billion highway improvement program.