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Senate advances new outline for road funding

Posted at 8:01 PM, Feb 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-25 20:01:14-05

INDIANAPOLIS -- After weeks of discussion and disagreement over how much to spend to fix the state's roads and bridges, Senate Republicans have a new plan they hope will put Indiana on the right path.

The new plan doesn't include the most contentious ideas in the debate up to this point: borrowing or tax increases. Nevertheless, it's clear negotiations are far from over.

In opening the discussion on a new attempt to reach common ground on road funding, Senator Luke Kenley assured members of the committee that holds the state's purse strings the situation isn't dire.

But, Kenley said, lawmakers need a stable source of funding.

The House and Senate have been advancing widely varying, competing plans for funding fixes.

The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved a proposal Thursday morning that incorporates ideas from both proposals.

For state roads, the plan uses $429 million from excess reserves. It imposes a $100 fee on electric vehicles and a $50 fee for hybrid vehicles. Local funding sources include a one-time, $430 million transfer from local option income tax reserves. Cities with at least 10,000 people have the option to impose a wheel or excise tax.

Moving forward, the proposal creates a task force to develop a long-term financial plan for road funding needs. It's based largely on the governor's proposal.

"It's very clear that he wants a program that only goes through the governor's term and doesn't go beyond that," House Speaker Brian Bosma said. "We're really taking an approach that goes beyond the next election cycle."

In the meantime, House Republicans are standing by their own plan that keeps increases in gas and cigarette taxes intact. Democrats don't support the tax increases.

Leaders in both chambers say it's absolutely possible they could adjourn this session without a road funding bill.

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