Indiana’s infrastructure task force approved recommendations that include raising taxes to generate funds for roads and bridges.
The task force estimates that the state needs, on average, around $1 billion in new money per year for state and local road maintenance and new infrastructure projects. That’s over the next 20 years.
The task force recommends a variety of solutions to raise that money, including an eight to ten cent increase in fuel taxes, an alternative fuel vehicle fee, a new vehicle registration fee and potential tolling.
House Ways and Means Chair Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, who helped lead the task force, says the recommendations are built from a philosophy that people who use Indiana’s roads should help pay for them.
“Any of these changes are dedicated to roads,” Brown says. “Let’s make that very, very clear.”
Senate Appropriations Chair Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, the other task force co-chair, says the legislature can’t wait any longer to enact a long-term infrastructure plan.
“I see this almost as a mandatory step for the General Assembly in 2017 to accomplish,” Kenley says. “We’re not going to have to come back in 2018 or 2019 and say, ‘Oh! We forgot to tell you about this.’”
The task force recommendations did not include any specific number for the gas tax increase. Brown says that’s no accident.
“I think that either becomes the floor or the ceiling and then the focus becomes upon that number as opposed that the principle is that we need to immediately restore the purchasing power,” Brown says.
Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, says while he doesn’t necessarily support every recommendation, he felt it was important to vote in favor of the task force’s whole proposal.
“I don’t think we do ourselves any favors as a committee by removing tools from the toolbox as we enter the legislative process,” Hershman says.
Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness, who served on the task force, says he thinks the makeup of the group shows state lawmakers will not ignore local roads.
“Having a representative from the Association of Cities and Towns and the Association of Indiana Counties really showed a message to us all that we do value your input and we want to hear from you,” McGuinness says.
The task force also recommends automatic gas tax increases in the future, tied to measures such as inflation and average Hoosier income.