BATON ROUGE, La. (LOCAL 33) (FOX 44) — A new class of Louisiana lawmakers will get to work next spring with big issues on their plate. But first, they have to get elected.
Five candidates are eyeing a seat representing State Senate District 16, which encompasses much of Baton Rouge — and they have the city’s traffic problems on their minds.
“Businesses will not come here, simply because our roads are bad,” said state Rep. Steve Carter, a House Republican looking to join the upper chamber.
‘I’ve lived here my whole life, and Baton Rouge has gotten worse and worse over time,” said state Rep. Franklin Foil, another Republican seeking the Senate seat.
Baton Rouge’s traffic woes are so infamous, a university nearly 400 miles away has studied it. Texas A&M this month claimed the average driver in the city uses up 25 gallons and $1,100 in missed opportunities each year, all because of traffic.
All of the candidates agreed that a new Mississippi River span would alleviate the problem.
“We need a new bridge,” Libertarian candidate Everett Baudean told the Press Club of Baton Rouge Monday.
“Clearly, we need a new bridge,” said Democratic candidate Beverly Brooks Thompson.
“We’re not throwing money at the problem when it comes to roads and bridges,” said Republican candidate Bob Bell.
Some of the hopefuls argue public-private partnerships can fund a new bridge. Others want to finance it through a higher gas tax, which remains unchanged since 1989, despite many efforts to raise it.
“We have to make sure that there is money available, so that when the feds drop money down, we are able to capture that,” Thompson said.
A few of the candidates claim the state has collected enough tax dollars and should better use what’s already in the bank.
“If you take the money that’s supposed to go to roads and bridges, and you spend it on something else for 30 years, it’s a tremendous hold,” Bell said.
“I think we need more accountability in terms of where state dollars should be spent,” Baudean said.
But lawmakers looking to fix traffic — or any other matter — through state-level taxes will likely have to wait until 2021. That’s because legislators cannot discuss tax policies during regular sessions in even-numbered years.