Legislative audit report shows Transportation Trust Fund is in trouble

Nearly $15 billion is the current cost of all of Louisiana’s infrastructure needs.
Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 5:47 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2022 at 4:12 AM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Nearly $15 billion is the current cost of all of Louisiana’s infrastructure needs. A report from the Legislative Auditors Office shows our state’s Transportation Trust Fund will fall short of meeting that number. But just how short?

“A whole 15 billion short, actually, and we’d like to point out that this is construction backlog as of 2019,” said Irina Hampton with the Legislative Auditor’s Office.

The state’s Transportation Trust Fund is almost entirely generated through its gas tax, about 20 cents per gallon. Lawmakers in the 90s agreed to put four cents toward specific projects approved back then and the remaining 16 cents set aside for future use. We have not seen an increase in the gas tax since the 90s nor has it been fixed to account for inflation or the cost of materials today.

“And so, the remaining 16 cents is having to help cover those four cent projects,” said Gina Brown, also with the Legislative Auditors Office. “So, the remaining 16 cents which could be used to decrease the backlog isn’t even enough.”

On top of the gas tax not making enough money to meet the state’s needs, gas-powered cars are becoming more fuel efficient.

“And so, in our report, we were able to do a projection on what this will result in in terms of our gas tax collections over the next 10 years...and it doesn’t look good. It’s about over half a billion dollars less we would collect,” explained Brown.

Dr. Shawn Wilson with DOTD said there were no surprises in the report.

“It validates our approach and argument,” said Wilson. “And it also validates the fact that we comply with the way transportation trust fund dollars are supposed to be spent.”

Drivers using electric cars don’t pay a gas tax. Instead, thanks to a new law passed last session, electric car owners pay a road usage fee. But fees are self-reported when filing state income tax.

“That is unfortunately a system flaw that shows how old our current collection system is and at the federal level, the ability to identify a vehicle by the type of energy source it uses. And so, I, working on the honor system is really the easiest and most efficient way for us to get started collecting a gas tax,” continued Wilson.

Of course, if you get caught lying on your state income tax, it could cost you big fines and even jail time. The auditors said they hope to be invited back to the Capitol to speak in front of the state task force on electric vehicles.

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