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A vote for would
Remove the authority to use money in the Transportation Trust Fund by state police for traffic control purposes.
To ensure that state fuel tax dollars would go to transportation projects, the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) was created with constitutional protections in 1990. Money in the Trust Fund can be used only for the costs associated with construction and maintenance of roads and bridges, flood control, ports, airports, transit, and state police for traffic control purposes. A portion is also set aside for local governments through the Parish Transportation Fund. Funding for ports, the Parish Transportation Fund, flood control and state police cannot exceed 20% of the state tax revenue put into the fund each year.
Since its establishment, the Trust Fund has intermittently been used by governors and the Louisiana Legislature to fund Louisiana State Police at an amount totaling approximately $700 million. These funds were used to replace general fund tax dollars that otherwise would have been necessary to fund police salaries and other operating expenses as part of their traffic enforcement program. These longstanding legislative actions have, in recent years, prompted critics of state road spending practices and trust fund diversions to claim there is not much “trust in the trust fund.” Consequently, in 2015, the Legislature passed Act 380 that capped Trust Fund allocations for the State Police at $10 million annually. Since 2016, the Legislature has not used the Trust Fund to support State Police. During recent efforts in the Legislature to increase the state fuel tax, critics claimed that more accountability was needed on how new funds would be spent before the state should expand revenue for transportation and infrastructure.
This amendment would remove “state police for traffic control purposes” from the allowed uses of money in the Transportation Trust Fund. It would have no immediate impact because no money in the TTF is being used to fund state police at this time. It would prevent such diversion in the future. Other uses of the TTF such as for flood control and ports would still be permitted.
Almost everyone agrees Louisiana needs better infrastructure. The state has a greater than $14 billion backlog of needs on its existing surface roads system and even more for other modes of transportation. This is in addition to the $15 billion worth of mega-projects that would increase the size and scope of the system. This amendment will provide more confidence to taxpayers by guaranteeing that tax dollars will be used on infrastructure projects and not diverted to pay for the operating costs of state police. This amendment would raise confidence in the state transportation funding process. For those concerned about the best use of revenue from potential future fuel tax increases, this amendment would provide more comfort that the money actually would be spent on construction and maintenance. Without this type of guarantee, new revenue solutions to our infrastructure needs would be unlikely in the foreseeable future
Traffic control is a needed and legitimate use of transportation funds. Traffic patrols help with public safety by reducing accidents. These accidents slow traffic flow. While no TTF dollars are currently being used to support state police, it is easy to imagine a time when it could be needed in the future such as after a downturn in the economy. We should be removing restrictions on how state funds can be spent, not adding them. The Constitution currently limits appropriations to state police, ports, parishes and flood control to 20% of the TTF. This is a reasonable limit that still gives the Legislature flexibility in future years. Some opponents of a fuel tax increase view this amendment as an unfortunate stepping stone toward higher taxes.
Legal Citation: Act 720 (Senate Bill 59 by Sen. Cortez) of the 2018 Regular Session amending Article VII, Section 27 (B)(1).
The Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana (PAR) is an independent voice, offering solutions to public issues in Louisiana through accurate, objective research and focusing public attention on those solutions. PAR is a private, nonprofit research organization founded in 1950 and supported by membership contributions, foundation and corporate grants and special events.
For more information, media interviews or public presentation requests regarding this constitutional amendment guide, please contact PAR President Robert Travis Scott at RobertScott@parlouisiana.org.