Gasoline tax linkage rejected

A bill that would link the price of Louisiana’s gasoline tax to the cost of living was narrowly rejected Wednesday by a House panel.

The vote was seven in favor and eight opposed in the state House Ways and Means Committee.

The tally is the latest sign that, despite concerns about state road conditions, any legislative consensus on how to address the problem is elusive.

Backers said the measure would prevent the list of state road and bridge needs, which totals about $12 billion, from getting even bigger. They said the change would cost a typical motorist about $2.40 per year.

“This is minimal,” said state Rep. Karen St. Germain, D-Pierre Part and sponsor of the measure, House Bill 675. “It is absolutely minimal.”

Opponents said the change would impose a hardship on truck drivers and small businesses.

Kathy Gautreaux, executive director of the Louisiana Motor Transport Association, said truck drivers often put 300 gallons of gasoline in their tanks.

“This is a pretty big, significant issue for them,” she said.

Other opponents included Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office and the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.

Motorists pay 38.4 cents per gallon in Louisiana for state and federal taxes.

That includes 16 cents for rank-and-file projects and four cents for 16 projects voters approved in 1989.

HB675 would link the 16-cent portion of the tax to the annual consumer price index.

The initial estimate said the change would raise $149 million over five years.

It would be about $120 million after changes to the bill.

Derrell Cohoon, who represents the Louisiana Association of General Contractors, urged approval of the bill and noted that the 16-cent tax has remained unchanged since 1984, and now has a value of 7.1 cents per gallon.

“We are using 1984 dollars today,” Cohoon said. “That just won’t work.”

St. Germain is chairwoman of the House Transportation Committee and has been a member of the panel for nine years.

“I would be remiss if I did not bring something to improve the infrastructure,” she said.

Voting YES to linking the gasoline tax with the consumer price index (7): state Reps. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge; Mickey Guillory, D-Eunice; Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe; Robert Johnson, D-Marksville; Harold Ritchie, D-Bogalusa; Major Thibaut, D-New Roads; and Patrick Williams, D-Shreveport.

Voting NO on HB675 (8): state Reps. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette; Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond; Richie Burford, R-Stonewall; Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur; Chris Hazel, R-Pineville; Eddie Lambert, R-Prairieville; Jeff Thompson, R-Bossier City; and Thomas Willmott, R-Kenner.