One year after a gas tax hike died in the Legislature, trade groups and others are kicking off a $500,000 campaign to force another legislative debate on the issue, possibly in 2019. “We have to find a solution,” said former state Rep. Erich Ponti, of Baton Rouge, the executive director of the Louisiana Asphalt Pavement Association and one of the leaders of the effort. The 35-member organization, called the Louisiana Coalition to Fix Our Roads, includes groups representing contractors, concrete interests and others that would benefit from new road and bridge building, as well as the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. Organizers have hired Push Digital, of Charleston, S.C., to lead what Ponti calls a 20-month education and public awareness campaign on the need for better roads and bridges. “Basically, it is a social media campaign, digital media,” Ponti said. “There is so much information and misinformation that it is a long, slow educational process to get the facts out there.” But despite talk of a leisurely campaign, there are signs that the group may try to get a legislative debate on raising the gas tax in Louisiana’s election-year legislative session, which begins April 8.
The push to raise the gas tax in Missouri failed in November, but city leaders raised the question this week about whether Kansas City can pass its own gas tax increase. Missouri has one of the lowest gas taxes in the country. In November, the vote to raise the tax failed by more than 100,000 votes. In Kansas City, it failed by 5,000 votes. “Nobody wants to pay more for anything, taxes or just in general. Nobody is seeing any results, we are going to improve the roads, but no one ever sees anything being done,” Matt Wells said. Both Republican and Democratic politicians supported the push to raise the gas tax, but voters said no. In a city meeting on Tuesday, leaders questioned whether Kansas City could raise the gas tax on its own. The answer is yes.
France has turned into a bubbling cauldron of unrest over the past month as the so-called yellow vest movement has put up roadblocks and taken to the streets to protest a gas tax. Last week’s protests turned violent and facing a crisis, the government of Emmanuel Macron announced on Tuesday it would put a six-month moratorium on the tax. The tax was meant to combat climate change and reduce carbon pollution. While it likely would’ve done that, it would’ve done so on the backs of France’s rural low and middle class. The mass revolt against it doesn’t mean those groups oppose climate action. It means that Macron needs to include them in discussions about the best way to address climate change as part of a just transition, something the world at-large is grappling with as it aims to get a handle on carbon emissions.