INDIANAPOLIS (AP) —
A powerful Indiana Senate committee on Tuesday put its stamp on an
infrastructure funding plan, which includes a number of fee and tax
increases that GOP leaders say are needed to pay for much needed road and
Sen. Brandt Hershman's committee made substantial changes to much of the
fine print of the House Republican proposal before passing the measure on an
11 to 2 vote.
But many of the
overarching tax-raising provisions remain, including a $15 vehicle
registration fee, a 10-cent gasoline tax increase and a diesel tax increase,
albeit slightly reduced.
A provision giving
the governor authority to seek interstate tolling also remains. One new
provision is a $5 fee that would be charged on the sale of each tire sold in
the state. And the amended bill would also increase annual fees charged on
But one big change
would eliminate a major source of roads funding sought by the House GOP.
They had proposed redirecting more of an existing sales tax that is charged
at the gas pump in addition to the state's per-gallon fuel tax. Much of the
fuel sales tax money — which is different from the per-gallon fuel tax — is
currently used to pay for other programs, but House Republicans said
redirecting all of it to roads could yield more than $300 million for
Lafayette, didn't rule the idea out for the session, but said he didn't want
the provision included in the bill. Other Republican leaders in the Senate
concur, including Appropriations Committee Chairman Luke Kenley, of
All told, the bill,
as it currently reads would bring in about $670 million for roads funding
beginning two years from now, according to Senate estimates. That's still
shy of the more than $1 billion increase in yearly infrastructure spending
lawmakers estimate is needed.
allowing tolls on interstates is a good way to provide the rest of the
needed money, especially once tax revenues from fuel sales plummet as new
vehicle efficiency standards go into effect in the coming years.
is a resource that does not continue to diminish like the gas tax does,"
Negotiations on the measure are bound to continue in the waning days of this
year's legislative session, which will adjourn in late April.
Finding a way to
pay for maintenance and improvements to Indiana's aging infrastructure has
proved to be a vexing challenge for lawmakers in recent years. Borrowing
money, tapping the state's $1.8 billion reserve fund or cutting other
programs are non-starters. And Republicans say they want a dedicated stream
of funding for roads, paid for by people who use them the most — hence the
fuel and vehicle related charges they have proposed.
But it's an awkward
conversation for GOP-dominated Statehouse after repeatedly cutting taxes
over the past decade. Unlike those cuts in income taxes, property taxes and
corporate taxes, which favor the wealthy, the tax hike Republicans are
pushing this year would affect motorists of all economic backgrounds.
repeatedly pointed out that Republicans are happy to continue phasing in a
large scale corporate tax cut while asking the middle and working class to
pay more for infrastructure.