Voters in Louisiana will head to the ballot box in about six weeks to decide on issues that include road and bridge project funding.
Two questions were added to the Oct. 24 ballot after gaining approval this spring from the Louisiana Legislature. State lawmakers endorsed putting the questions on the ballot to help address a $12 billion backlog to pay for infrastructure needs.
Amendment 1 on the fall ballot will ask voters whether to steer state mineral revenue, which includes oil and gas, into a transportation account.
Currently, about $21 million in mineral money is instead deposited into the state’s rainy day fund.
If approved by voters, about $21 million in revenue during the next five years would be allocated for the state highway system and the Louisiana Intermodal Connector Program. The transfers would begin in fiscal year 2017-18.
Up to $100 million annually would be applied to transportation in later years.
Amendment 2 on the statewide ballot will ask voters whether they support setting up a state transportation infrastructure bank.
The setup would cover the use of public funds to establish the new account. All money in the new account would be used solely for transportation projects.
Infrastructure banks are in place in 30 states. The banks are owned by states and offer loans and credit to public and private transportation infrastructure projects.
The first amendment, which appears to be a diversion similar to Texas’ Proposition 7, will be no doubt provide more money to transportation (although $21 million annually isn’t all that much). The second amendment is more intriguing. Infrastructure banks have become an increasingly popular tool by state legislatures, particularly because of their perceived value as one solution to maximizing limited transportation dollars. A recent CBO analysis found infrastructure banks can aid in better taking advantage of federal credit programs and allowing the benefits of a project to be more easily compared to in a competitive selection process.
One of the most vocal supporters of these amendments, the Louisiana Good Roads Association, has proposed and supported a variety of transportation funding packages and initiatives in the past. Business trade groups continue to provide the solid base of support these types of initiatives need in order to succeed. No clear opposition has seemed to have mobilized yet, but of course that can change quickly. It will no doubt be interesting to follow how these amendments play out and whether voters continue what appears to be a nationwide trend of supporting diversions from other sources to transportation.
NICK’S PREDICTION: Amendment 1 – PASS 59-41; Amendment 2 – PASS 63-37