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Group talks new plan to fund and fix state’s roads

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Erich Ponti, former State Rep. for District 69 in East Baton Rouge, was guest speaker at an informational meeting held by the Louisiana Coalition to Fix Our Roads at the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce December 18. (Stacey Tinsley/Press-Tribune)

By Stacey Tinsley, stinsley@bossierpress.com

A group new to Louisiana brought its plan to fix state roads and bridges to Shreveport-Bossier earlier this week.

The Louisiana Coalition to Fix Our Roads (LCFOR) held an informational meeting discussing fiscally sound solutions to fund and fix state infrastructure at the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce Monday, Dec. 17.

The coalition proposes introducing a fuel tax to be phased in over a 10-year period beginning in 2019. The new tax would add .06 cents to the price of gasoline and .04 cents on diesel purchases.

LCFOR notes that Louisiana’s gas tax has not changed since 1989. Also, motorists currently pay 38.4 cents per gallon, including .20 cents in state taxes.

They also noted that earlier this year, State Rep. Steve Carter (R-Baton Rouge) proposed a constitutional amendment that would have removed the existing prohibition on local governments from levying taxes on motor fuels. The House Ways and Means Committee declined to advance the proposal to the House floor, voting 8-7 against it.

LCFOR’s mission is to:

  • educate the citizens of Louisiana and elected officials on the dire condition of Louisiana’s roads and bridges
  • advocate for improving the quality and safety of Louisiana roads and bridges
  • and offer a variety of sound fiscal solutions to legislators to increase dedicated recurring revenue for road and bridge improvements.

Guest speaker at the meeting was Erich Ponti, former State Rep. for District 69 in East Baton Rouge.

“This coalition effort is about roads and bridges and improving the quality and safety of our roads and bridges. We want sound, physical solutions that are going to be reoccurring revenue to sustain, build, and improve our infrastructure. If you want to pass a sales tax, if you want to pass a fuel tax, we are open to everything and anything. But lets offer a sound, fiscal solution to bring us to where we need to be,” Ponti said.

Ponti said officials have raised about $150,000 of their $500,000 goal to build support for more road and bridge money.

Organizers for LCFOR have begun working on drafting legislation, developing an initial eight-month media campaign to the general public and legislators, and hosting an “Infrastructure Day” at the Capitol next session.

LCFOR has hired Push Digital, of Charleston, S.C., to lead what Ponti calls a 20-month education and public awareness campaign on the need for better roads and bridges.

“Basically, it is a social media campaign” Ponti said. “There is so much information and misinformation that it is a long, slow educational process to get the facts out there.”

LCFOR is a nonprofit, statewide organization that advocates for improving roads and bridges. There are currently more than 70 coalition members, with a majority serving in leadership roles in various business sectors. It is governed by an eight member board of directors comprised of business leaders, chambers of commerce representatives, and trade associations.