May 8, 2017 08:09 AM

Practice of using Transportation Trust Fund money to fund Louisiana State Police would end with voter approval

Photo by Robin May

For the past four budgets, the Legislature and two governors have used a portion of the state's Transportation Trust Fund to pay for the traffic control operations of the Louisiana State Police. They did this even as the state's inability to fund road construction and maintenance projects grew dramatically due to the state's bleak fiscal reality.

Lafayette Sen. Page Cortez wants to put an end to the practice through passage of a constitutional amendment that would bar the state from using trust fund revenue for that purpose. The Louisiana Constitution currently allows the fund to be used for funding LSP as well as other items more directly related to the state's infrastructure needs. Among those things that can be funded from the TTF are maintenance and construction of state and federal highway projects, the state flood control program, ports, airports and the Parish Transportation Fund.

Cortez's SB57 is a proposed constitutional amendment that would remove funding for LSP traffic control work from that list.

According to the fiscal note prepared on the bill by the Legislative Fiscal Office, over the past five state budgets about $200 million dollars from the TTF have been used to finance LSP operations. HB1 as approved by the House last week does not use TTF funds to pay for LSP operations.

The state has a reported backlog of $13 billion in transportation construction projects on the books without the revenue to pay for them.

Alan Boxberger, general government section director for the Legislative Fiscal Office, says the primary funding for the TTF comes by way of the state's 16-cents per gallon gasoline tax.

"The gasoline tax is projected to bring in $506 million in the current fiscal year," Boxberger tells The Independent in a Monday morning telephone interview. "Another $53.7 [million] is generated by the motor vehicle tax. Weights and permits, plus fines from that program generate another $28.1 million."

Boxberger says the TTF also gets $29.8 million from a tax on aviation fuel but that revenue is dedicated to airports.

SB57 is among the bills that could be considered for final passage today when the Senate convenes at 3 p.m.

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