DOTD Secretary: Tax money not diverted from transportation

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As DOTD Secretary, I often hear inaccurate and misleading information about transportation in Louisiana, but one fallacy regarding funding stands out. The notion that “only 11 cents on the dollar” is spent on transportation improvements and the “other 89 cents” is diverted or wasted on bureaucracy is simply not true.

In short, ALL states use the majority of fuel tax revenue to fund state departments of transportation, both capital and maintenance costs. Maintenance is 100 percent state funded; federal funds cannot be used for this purpose except in very limited cases. Maintenance includes pothole patching, traffic signals, drainage, signs, striping, guardrail, cable barriers, litter pickup, mowing, and many other important repair and operations services.  The remaining funds are used as “match” to secure federal fuel tax revenues for construction projects. This model is used by every state. We are not alone. If we were to use 100 percent of state funds on construction, the work you have come to depend on would disappear and decades of underfunding would cause the system to crumble. DOTD utilizes all of its annual federal funding, provided we have the ability to meet the necessary state match. However, without additional funding the state match goes away in the near future.

I’ve heard some say: “DOTD still should be more efficient so we can spend more state fuel tax revenue on construction and less on operations and maintenance.”  Failure to maintain existing infrastructure will ultimately result in increased cost. Enhanced efficiency must be an enduring principle for any successful organization, and that is the case for DOTD as its administrative expenses make up less than five percent of the total budget. Of what remains, 70 percent goes toward projects and operations, with the remaining 25 percent going to debt service and constitutional transportation-related dedications that no longer include the state police.

FACT: The DOTD workforce is at an all-time low as the workload is at an all-time high, including hurricane, flood, freeze, and tornado responses. Compared to other states, 23 states have more employees per capita than Louisiana, but we have more miles of road than 39 states.

FACT:  Under this administration, your state and federal fuel tax revenue is being spent on building and maintaining transportation infrastructure and paying for what has been built, even with citizen-approved constitutionally authorized expenditures. Considering all modes of transportation, Louisiana’s infrastructure needs and wants far outweigh our resources. It’s time to face this issue and invest in our future.

Unfortunately out-of-state opposition peddles untruths to the people of Louisiana as our roads crumble and our motorists stay stuck in one traffic jam after another. Instead of spending money trying to limit our economic prosperity, they should donate the money to the Transportation Trust Fund and we promise to put it to good use building new roads and bridges all across Louisiana.

Dr. Shawn Wilson,
Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development