BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A push to raise Louisiana's gasoline tax and pump millions more yearly into roadwork has narrowly crossed its first, and possibly hardest, legislative hurdle.

The conservative, majority-Republican House Ways and Means Committee voted 9-7 Tuesday for the 17-cent per gallon tax hike. The vote sends the proposal by Republican Rep. Steve Carter of Baton Rouge to the full House for debate.

The tax hike is pushed by chambers of commerce and some business leaders, particularly in the Baton Rouge and Acadiana regions that struggle with gridlock. That crippling traffic in parts of south Louisiana persuaded several GOP lawmakers who normally oppose taxes to vote for the bill.

But the tax, estimated to raise $539 million in its first year, faces difficulty getting through the House. It requires a two-thirds vote.