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House GOP Road Funding Proposal Moves Out Of Committee

A House road funding proposal that would increase both gas and cigarette taxes cleared its first legislative hurdle Wednesday.  But the GOP proposal was not embraced by all House Roads Committee Republicans.

The House GOP road plan raises the state’s gas tax by four cents, to account for inflation.  That tax was last raised more than ten years ago.  The plan also dedicates all money from the sales tax on gasoline to road funding.

Roads Committee Chairman Ed Soliday, the bill’s author, says the tax increases are modest.

“There is a significant need and what we’re asking is enough money in this bill, through multiple sources, to stop the decline of Indiana roads,” Soliday said.

But some of the gasoline sales tax currently goes to the General Fund.  So, to account for this, the bill would also raise the cigarette tax one dollar.

Goshen Republican Representative Curt Nisly says while he appreciates the need for more road funding, he thinks the plan isn’t the right course.

“The tax increases – more than doubling the tax on cigarettes… and for that reason I’m going to be a no vote today,” Nisly said.

Republicans in the committee rejected an attempt by Democrats to remove all tax increases from the  plan.

The Democrats’ amendment – offered by Indianapolis Representative Dan Forestal – would have shifted all money from the sales tax on gasoline to road funding; only a small portion of that revenue source currently goes to roads. Forestal says the Democratic amendment proposed using Indiana’s $2 billion surplus to cover the shift.

“House Democrats’ issue with this is that we have $2 billion in a savings account but we’re trying to raise taxes," Forestal says. "We think that is a tough sell."

The committee rejected Forestal’s amendment 9-4, along party lines.  The House GOP bill advanced.

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