INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
A trade association will soon adorn gas pumps across Indiana with ads
opposing a Republican plan to use higher fuel taxes to pay for
infrastructure repairs, a tricky sell in a conservative state much more
accustomed to cutting taxes than raising them.
The ads at gas
pumps, filling stations and convenience stores will include the contact
information for state lawmakers, a hardball tactic urging motorists to voice
their opposition to the plan that would raise fuel prices by at least a dime
“Our message was
getting lost,” said Scot Imus, executive director of the Indiana Petroleum
Marketers and Convenience Store Association, who provided information about
the campaign to The Associated Press. “Our association is not the most
powerful in town, but the one thing we do have is we see customers -
thousands of them.”
have long embraced lower taxes dominate Indiana government, but fixing the
state’s crumbling roads and bridges has proved to be a vexing challenge.
Indiana is not
alone, either. The country’s infrastructure is aging and will require a
significant investment to maintain or improve it in the coming years. At the
same time, revenues from gas taxes - which many states have not increased in
more than a decade - are dropping off as cars become more efficient.
More than a dozen
states - including several under GOP control - are debating some sort of a
fuel tax increase to pay for infrastructure improvements. California,
Indiana, Mississippi, New Mexico Oregon and Oklahoma, among others, have
active bills that would change fuel taxation in an effort to raise more
money, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. A similar
GOP-backed fuel tax increase went into effect in Michigan last month,
increasing the cost of gas by 7 cents and diesel by 11 cents.
borrowing money, tapping the state’s $1.8 billion reserve fund or cutting
programs have been non-starters. And Republicans who have supermajorities in
both chambers of the Legislature say they want a dedicated stream of funding
for roads, paid for by people who use them the most.
But it’s an awkward
conversation for House Speaker Brian Bosma, who is spearheading the
proposal, as well as his Republican allies in the Legislature, who have been
busy cutting taxes over the past decade. Unlike those cuts in income taxes,
property taxes and corporate taxes, which favor the wealthy, the tax hike
Bosma is pushing for would affect motorists of all economic backgrounds.
meanwhile, are trying to capitalize on the GOP’s newfound willingness to
raise taxes. House Minority Leader Scott Pelath announced an alternative
infrastructure funding plan Monday that would block the scheduled
implementation of additional corporate tax cuts but not affect gas prices.
“The problem we
have up to this point is not a problem of revenue - it has been a problem of
priorities,” Pelath said.
In 2015, former
Gov. Mike Pence - now the vice president - was mercilessly attacked by
Democrats after an emergency closure of an Interstate 65 bridge near
Lafayette led to a one-month detour. But in an election year, Pence did not
want to raise taxes to pay for roads so a stop-gap roads spending measure
was approved instead.
With Pence gone,
Republicans now hope to pass a package of tax increases that would raise the
cost of fuel, vehicle registration and allow for fuel taxes to increase with
inflation in the future. Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, Pence’s successor,
has said he is open to a fuel tax increase, but he has not taken a prominent
role in advocating for the increase.
store association is just the latest to come out in opposition to the plan
by House Republicans. Conservative activists have targeted Bosma on social
media by labeling the proposal with the hashtag #BosmaGasTax. And Americans
for Prosperity, the political wing of billionaire industrialist brothers
Charles and David Koch, plans to organize volunteers who will speak in
opposition to the tax with motorists at gas stations. Conservative anti-tax
activist Grover Norquist’s group Americans for Tax Reform has also jumped in
the fray, writing in a letter to legislators that they will be “educating
your constituents” about the increase.
businesses stand to lose big - especially in areas that border other states.
The Legislature is also considering a plan that would raise the state’s
current $1-a-pack tax on cigarettes to $2.50. Imus pointed to industry
figures showing that, if approved, the roads funding proposal would make
Indiana’s gas tax burden higher than its neighbors Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan