The governors of Louisiana and Mississippi are in agreement: Our states cannot afford to spend more on infrastructure.

The two, Louisiana’s John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, and Mississippi’s Phil Bryant, a Republican, wrote a joint letter to The Advocate newspaper in Baton Rouge in which they respond to a proposal by President Donald Trump.

Trump has said the federal government, which currently picks up 80 percent of the tab for transportation projects it does in conjunction with states, should instead pay 20 percent – with states and localities left to pay 80 percent.

"Since 2012, more than 25 states have addressed their funding issues by modernizing their gas tax structure or rates, and for various reasons, our states have not followed that path; thus, we are dependent on federal support," the governors wrote. "There are no shortages of examples where an accelerated and streamlined environmental permitting process would result in moving a project from concept to construction in a more efficient and expedited fashion. Therefore, we see value in accelerating the environmental process such that we spend less of our dollars on process and more on actually building and repairing infrastructure our citizens can use in their daily lives."

They raise an excellent point. When so much money and time has to be spent on the permitting process, the actual projects can be neglected. So they welcomed Trump’s commitment to streamlining the process of applying for and receiving environmental permits.

The permits themselves are necessary to ensure that projects don’t unnecessarily damage precious environmental resources. But they shouldn’t be so onerous that they are obstacles to progress.

The most important point, though, is that both of our states face fiscal difficulties that would make it extremely difficult for use to provide any more money for state-federal projects.

Political efforts to raise gas taxes have faced stiff opposition and public suspicion about whether the increased money will be spent on roads and bridges.

Meanwhile, Trump is suggesting that the federal government spend more dollars on infrastructure, but that they be met with a higher match by the states. If that does go into effect, Louisiana will have to examine once again the possibility of raising more money for that purpose – through an increase in the gas tax or by other means.

That might not be the popular approach, but in a state with so many substandard roads and bridges, this is a critical need whose time has come. How we pay for it will be the critical question moving forward.

 

Editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper, not of any individual.