INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma said Thursday that Republicans “need to
continue educating the public” about the need for a tax increase that would
be used to fund infrastructure projects around the state.
Republican even plans to hold a contest to bring attention to the issue and
will award a prize to the person who finds the worst pothole in their
neighborhood or commute to work.
“We need to
continue educating the public on the need here,” said Bosma, who professes
to have popular support for the proposal. Later he added: “I think the
average Hoosier will tell you that our roads are not in good shape.”
Despite the outward
display of confidence, conservative groups are mobilizing against the idea
and say they will target Republicans who vote for the proposed $15 vehicle
registration charge and 10-cent fuel tax increase. Even Bosma’s use of a
gimmick, like the contest he plans to hold, suggests that Republicans have
their work cut out for them.
“The bottom line:
you’re raising our taxes, dude,” said Monica Boyer, of the Indiana Liberty
Coalition, a conservative advocacy group. “They have all those nice little
talking points ... but when you come outside the Indianapolis bubble,
Hoosiers are ticked.”
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.
But it’s an awkward
conversation for Bosma and 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
complicated the matter, taking pot shots at Republicans for the proposed
increase, even though many are expected to vote in favor of the bill.
“The priorities up
to this point have been ... to hand out tax cuts to a few, but now in order
to fix the problem we’re seeing a proposal for tax increases for the many,”
said House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City.
voted the bill out of the House transportation committee on Wednesday,
clearing a preliminary hurdle.
Bosma also met with
GOP Senate leader David Long and Gov. Eric Holcomb on Wednesday and he says
the roads funding proposal was one of the issues discussed. He predicted
that, in the end, some version of the bill will pass.
“What we did say,
and agree upon, is that by the end of the session, the three of us and our
teams will be standing in the same space (with) a long-term, sustainable,
funded road plan,” he said.