Legislative audit report shows transport trust fund in trouble
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) — Nearly $15 billion is the current cost of all of Louisiana’s infrastructure needs. A report from the Office of Legislative Auditors shows that our state’s Transportation Trust Fund will fall short of that number. But how long?
“In fact, there’s $15 billion missing, and we want to point out that this is a construction backlog as of 2019,” said Irina Hampton of the Office of the Legislative Auditor.
The state’s Transportation Trust Fund is generated almost entirely by its gasoline tax, about 20 cents per gallon. Lawmakers in the 1990s agreed to spend four cents on specific projects approved at the time, and the remaining 16 cents are reserved for future use. We haven’t seen a gas tax increase since the 90s and it was not set to account for inflation or the cost of materials today.
“And so the remaining 16 cents is to help cover those four-cent projects,” said Gina Brown, also of the Office of Legislative Auditors. “So the remaining 16 cents that could be used to reduce the backlog isn’t even enough.”
In addition to the gas tax not bringing in enough money to meet the state’s needs, gas-powered cars are becoming more and more fuel efficient.
“And so, in our report, we were able to project what this will mean in terms of gas tax collection over the next 10 years…and it doesn’t look good.” That’s about over half a billion dollars less than we would raise,” Brown explained.
DOTD’s Dr. Shawn Wilson said there were no surprises in the report.
“It validates our approach and our argument,” Wilson said. “And it also validates that we are complying with how the transportation trust fund dollars are supposed to be spent.”
Drivers using electric cars do not pay gasoline tax. Instead, thanks to a new law passed last session, electric car owners pay a road user fee. But the fee is self-reported when filing state income tax.
“It is unfortunately a flaw in the system that shows the age of our current collection system and at the federal level, the ability to identify a vehicle by the type of energy source it uses. And so, me, working on the honor system is really the easiest and most effective way for us to start collecting gas tax,” Wilson continued.
Of course, if you’re caught lying about your income tax, it could cost you hefty fines and even jail time. Listeners said they hoped to be invited back to the Capitol to speak before the state’s electric vehicle task force.
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