This year, Louisiana will raid $21.6 million from its road maintenance fund to pay for road projects, including some expansions, that have been on the books since 1989. The state will have to keep stealing from the fund for the next 27 years to pay for them.
Voters approved a package of 16 road and bridge projects under a pay-as-you-go model 26 years ago. Two of the projects, both in the New Orleans area, are still underway, according to a report by The Advocate:
Meanwhile, leaders have long since concluded that financing the improvements through a special, 4-cents-per-gallon tax was not enough.
The original price tag for the projects was $1.4 billion. The latest estimate is $5.2 billion.
“It is unbelievable,” said state Sen. Bodi White, R-Central, who is often involved in Baton Rouge-area highway projects.
State officials say construction will last up to 10 years, and taxpayers will be shelling out for these roads long after building has ended. Since the 4-cents-a-gallon tax fund the state is authorized to use for these projects is insufficient, the state is digging into a fund that’s supposed to cover ordinary road maintenance in the region. The raids will recur annually for the next 27 years, starting at $21.6 million this year and ending at an estimated $87.6 million in 2044.
“It was ill-conceived,” Republican Sen. Dale Erdey, a veteran member of the Senate Transportation Committee, told The Advocate. “They told Joe Public that it would be a pay-as-you-go-type situation, and of course, that was totally off base.”