Winnfield native, Jack McFarland, who is a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives representing District 13 comprised of Jackson, Winn and Bienville parishes, has pulled the plug on his latest bid to boost Louisiana’s gasoline tax. By virtue of the act his “True Grit” agenda plan to phase in a 22-cent increase in the gas tax will not be voted on during the April 12 Legislative session.
“I’m restructuring my bill. I’m going to take the revenue-raising measure out of it,” McFarland said.
The north Louisiana lawmaker faced significant opposition from within his own party. Also both Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and Republican Senate President Page Cortez said Wednesday that they didn’t see enough support to raise the gas tax this year. Supporters of an increase point to Louisiana’s $15 billion backlog of road and bridge work and its list of $13 billion in projects to improve traffic flow and lessen gridlock. Critics slammed the tax hike as unaffordable, particularly in a pandemic.
McFarland’s tax hike proposal was further undermined by an influx of federal coronavirus aid pushed by President Joe Biden and passed by Democrats in Congress earlier this month. Louisiana state government expects to receive more than $3 billion from the federal package, and local government agencies are slated to get $1.8 billion. Those dollars could be steered to roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects.
Motorists in Louisiana pay 38.4 cents in taxes per gallon of gasoline, including 20 cents in state taxes. The state rate hasn’t changed since 1990. Louisiana ranks 43rd in the nation for what it charges drivers to fuel vehicles, according to The Tax Foundation.
McFarland had proposed to raise the state tax 22 cents by 2033, starting with a 10-cent per gallon increase in 2021, then 2 additional cents every other year for the next 12 years. That was estimated to raise $300 million annually in the first year and grow to $660 million yearly by 2033. New fees also would have been charged on electric and hybrid vehicles.
Rather than the tax increase, McFarland said he’ll propose moving all the current gas tax revenue to projects and prohibiting it from being spent on transportation department administration — a shift that would require lawmakers to find other dollars to pay for agency operations. He’ll propose fee increases for the department to help cover some of those administrative costs and seek to earmark all vehicle sales taxes to the agency, stripping the dollars from other state spending areas.