Bill to improve infrastructure funding elicits emotional responses in Louisiana Senate

Sen. Rick Ward pushed for extending a portion of the state sales tax to pay for roads and bridges (Photo courtesy of the Louisiana Senate).

Published: June 2, 2021

By: Matthew Bennett | LSU Manship School News Service

Sen. Rick Ward (R-Port Allen) sat before the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday with tears in his eyes advocating a bill that he thinks could keep his loved ones from moving out of Louisiana.

After pulling out a large painting of his family to show his fellow representatives and choking on a few words, Ward said, “I know roads and infrastructure is not something to get emotional about, but that’s not the part I get emotional about. I don’t want to see them leave here. It’s time that we do something.”

The Senate Finance Committee passed the bill 7-4 Wednesday in a vote that also set off a lot of other emotions in the Legislature, especially from critics in both parties.

The controversy comes in that the bill, HB 514, would indefinitely extend a 0.45 percent sales tax that the Legislature passed in 2018 as a temporary stopgap to solve a budget crisis. The extension, which was tacked onto a marijuana tax bill late in the session, would keep that part of the sales tax from expiring in 2025 and dedicate the money from it to roads and bridges.

Ward repeatedly defended the bill as the most effective way to raise and commit state revenue to improving Louisiana’s infrastructure at a “four to one return on investment for construction dollars as we spend them.”

Ward said the bill tax would create $350 million per year directed only toward fixing roads and bridges.

If the Legislature kills the bill, the 0.45 percent sales tax would be lowered back down to 0.4 percent in 2025.

Read more at BR Proud

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