‘We have to find a solution’: Louisiana coalition turns to digital media in latest push for gas tax hike

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.