By Carolyn Kramer, manager, Transportation Investment Advocacy Center

A legislatively-commissioned audit found that funding for Louisiana’s Transportation Trust Fund (TFF) is not keeping pace with the growing needs of the state’s highway system, and more money is required for maintenance and modernization of transportation infrastructure.

The Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s report determined that the rising cost of inflation, modest growth in state funding, and a decrease in federal funding is creating a shortfall in meeting the state’s transportation funding needs. The Aug. 5 audit found that 4.9 percent, or $138 million, of the state’s motor fuel tax between Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 and FY 2014 was used to pay off TIMED (Transportation Infrastructure Model for Economic Development) debt, with an additional $1.2 billion needed over the next 30 years to retire the debt.

Nearly $153 million of the TTF (excluding federal receipts) was used to fund the state police from FY 2012 through FY 2014, and the FY 2015 appropriated amount was $59.8 million. Earlier this year, however, state lawmakers agreed to limit future state police appropriations to $45 million in FY 2016, $20 million in FY 2017, and $10 million in FY 2018 and beyond.

The audit suggested several different methods to increase transportation funding, including “increasing taxes on motor fuels, turn over roads to local governments, dedication of state sales tax, vehicle miles traveled fees, rental car taxes, tolls, public-private partnerships, and selling bonds.”

At the Press Club of Baton Rouge on Aug. 3, Ken Perret of the Louisiana Good Roads and Transportation Association advocated for a minimum 10 cents-per-gallon state gas tax increase.  The increase would raise an estimated $250 to $280 million per year, a small amount to start chipping away at the estimated $12 billion backlog. “Good roads cost money, but bad roads cost more,” Perret said.

View highlights of the Louisiana Legislative Auditor report, or read the full audit.