NWLA lawmakers weigh in on proposed gasoline tax increase

Updated: May. 17, 2017 at 7:43 PM CDT
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the bill is expected to generate more than a half a billion dollars. (Source: KSLA News 12)
the bill is expected to generate more than a half a billion dollars. (Source: KSLA News 12)

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - A proposal to increase Louisiana's gasoline tax by 17 cents per gallon is headed to the House floor after being approved 9-to-7 by a House committee.

Revenue from the tax reportedly goes straight to the state's roads and bridges.

"There will be a ripple effect on our economy if we don't make an investment," state Transportation & Development Secretary Shawn Wilson said.

But three Northwest Louisiana representative who are members of that House panel voted against the proposal.

"If we tax all our businesses to the point of going out of business, then we won't need an infrastructure if nobody's here," said state Rep. Jim Morris, of Oil City.

Also voting against the legislation were state Reps. Dodie Horton, of Haughton, and Alan Seabaugh, of Shreveport.

While the state's infrastructure is important, Morris said, this is something that should have been done before now.

And taxing so much at once will do more harm than good, he added.

"I voted that way because I don't think it's gonna pass and there was no reason to try and bring it out of committee," Morris said.

"In our area especially, we're having problems. People are being laid off. They're losing their businesses."

Louisiana's gasoline tax is 20 cents per gallon.

And observers say it has not been raised in several decades.

Another 17 cents means motorists would be paying a total of 37 cents per gallon at the pump.

That increase is projected to generate more than $500,000 a year.

"I don't know if it's an unfair tax," Shreveport Councilman Oliver Jenkins said. "What I like about this type of revenue source is that it is essentially a user fee."

Jenkins, who sits on the city's infrastructure committee, thinks the fee is appropriate.

"People who use gasoline are the same people who are using our roads. And there are streets within the city that would be beneficiaries ... . Essentially, Youree Drive is Highway 1, and that is primarily funded by state revenues."

On the other hand, some say the 17-cent increase is simply too much to swallow.

"We barely get enough money to pay bills, and now they wanna raise up everything. ... What can we do?" Shreveporter Gerald Davison asked.

If approved by the state House, the legislation's next stop would be the Louisiana Senate.

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