Gas tax proposal could raise gas prices

Would provide more money to improve state infrastructure
Published: Jan. 21, 2021 at 7:56 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 21, 2021 at 10:38 PM CST
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Will you have to pay more at the pump soon? The state gas tax hasn’t been raised for years, but now, lawmakers are looking at a tax to do just that. It’s called the Government Reform in Transportation, or GRIT, act. It’s a possible gas tax increase aimed at providing revenue to improve state infrastructure.

State Representative Jack McFarland of District 13 helped write the plan. According to McFarland, the state has the seventh-lowest gas tax in the country, but Louisiana also ranks last in road conditions.

“It would apply to our current gas tax, it would be 10 cents the first year,” McFarland said. “And then two cents every other year for the next 10 years, which would result in 22 cents by the year 2033, which, if we would do this with the current tax we’re paying that was passed in 1984. That was 16 cents, but it was not CPI indexed (Consumer Price Index) to account for inflation. If you do that and account for the inflation over the last four decades, we would end up at the 38 cents total in 2033.”

McFarland said right now every citizen pays a gas tax to the federal government, then the federal government makes a portion of the money available for the state, but to get the money, the state has to have revenue. He understands the proposal would increase gas prices, but McFarland said the tax is a chance to provide the revenue needed to improve Louisiana’s infrastructure.

“If you’ve driven down our roads lately you see the number of bridges that have been closed, and the horrible condition of our state highways,” McFarland said. “If you look at our economic status on the state, our sales tax on the state level, our net proceeds have remained pretty much stable. But, the best thing we can do for our citizens is investing back into infrastructure stimulating economic growth. Businesses are leaving this state because they cannot get their goods and services to and from the markets.”

McFarland hasn’t officially introduced the GRIT act so Louisiana’s Secretary of DOTD, Dr. Shawn Wilson, couldn’t say whether DOTD officially supports it.

“It’s based on real needs,” Wilson said. “The most important thing is we agree that fundamentally there needs to be new investment in infrastructure where we are today.”

Wilson said DOTD needs any investment to improve state infrastructure.

“We look forward to working with him, to make sure we’re doing the right thing for infrastructure,” Wilson said. “It needs to be spent the right way with the right policy framework.”

“Just like them I’m a business owner, but I’m also a citizen,” McFarland said. “I’m tired of having one of my automobiles damaged by roads. I’m tired of driving around closed bridges. At the same time, I want to see our state grow. I want to see our economy have an opportunity to improve. The only way, or one of the best ways, we can do that is investing back into our state. Even if we pass this proposal, we will still not be more than halfway, as compared to all the other states in the country. We would be about 28th in the nation. As far as our gas tax goes, I think it’s just fair, all the way across the board. I look forward to working on the legislation.”

People at Leebos in Pineville had mixed reactions to the gas tax proposal.

“I reckon I would if it would help out with roads and bridges and stuff like that, but oftentimes I’ve noticed with tax increases like that they say there’s money going into the roads but you don’t ever see it,” Zack said.

Galen Dauzat is against the gas tax proposal.

“No, we don’t want the taxes on gas...not at all,” Dauzat said.

McFarland said he’s spoken with big and small business owners who say state infrastructure makes doing business hard.

“As an individual, I appreciate the challenges that this could present to families, but also I recognize the economic opportunities it presents for these families and businesses together,” McFarland said.

The legislative session is set for April 12, where the GRIT act will be introduced for consideration.

“For a business owner, for example, a plumber can’t even get to and from his jobs if bridges continue to be closed,” McFarland said. “I have spoken to floral shop owners who have expressed the same concern that it’s costing them more to get flowers delivered. So, it’s not just big businesses that I’m hearing from that are having these concerns. It’s even our small businesses that are feeling the impact of our deplorable road conditions. So yes, I do think now is an appropriate time for us to make this investment. At a time when we’re going to be coming out of a pandemic, we have the opportunity to invest back into Louisiana and stimulate our economy.”

McFarland said another part of the proposal focuses on making sure money is only used for infrastructure.

“Every state has a gas tax, but some states are using multiple methods for paying for roads,” McFarland said. “Some have property taxes. I don’t want to do that. Some are using sales taxes. We chose not to do that so every state’s different.”

For more information on the GRIT act, visit this link.

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