“Difficult Vote” As Senate Passes Gas Tax Increase To Fund Roads
By Mike Perleberg
Indiana State Senator Jeff Raatz (R-Centerville). Photo by A.J. Waltz.
(Indianapolis, Ind.) – A possible gasoline tax increase is another step closer to reality in Indiana.
The Indiana Senate on Tuesday approved an infrastructure funding plan with fee and tax increases that lawmakers say will fund a billion dollars per year in road improvements statewide over the next 20 years. Republicans, who own a supermajority in both chambers, came into the 2017 legislative session with a long-term road and bridge funding plan a top priority.
The Senate voted 34-13 to approve House Bill 1002 on Tuesday. Like the version that had passed the House, the bill would increase the state gas tax by 10 cents per gallon, create a new $15 annual vehicle registration fee, and increase the registration fee for electric vehicles. The bill also gives the governor the ability to seek tolls on interstate highways.
New fees added by the Senate include a new $5 fee per new tire purchased and a $100 increase in the annual commercial vehicle registration fee.
“Taking care of our transportation infrastructure supports our growing economy and positions us to maintain our reputation as the Crossroads of America. It also means improved safety and less traffic congestion for everyday Hoosier drivers,” said Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne).
Southeastern Indiana state senators Chip Perfect (R-Lawrenceburg) and Jeff Raatz (R-Centerville) voted for it. Raatz called his vote “a very difficult decision.”
“I believe we can all agree that we have problems with our roads, and it is difficult to improve them when we have a $1 billion annual road funding gap. Last session, we promised to take a comprehensive look at roads, and we did that, by conducting a bipartisan study that included members of the public, state and local leaders, and those in the transportation industry,” Raatz said, adding he will advocate for local funding.
However, fellow Republican Senator Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg) voted with mostly Democrats against the tax increases.
Senator Karen Tallian (D-Portage) joined Republican senators in supporting HB 1002, even though she believes the current bill does not adequately address jobs, tax fairness, and raising wages.
“The bill approved today significantly differs from the language that came from the House. Although, not perfect, I supported the measure, as this is the only vehicle that exists this session to improve our infrastructure,” said Tallian.
Senate Democrats’ were denied in their attempt to amend HB 1002 to put a moratorium on corporate tax cuts to ensure that motorists are not the only ones paying a higher tax.
“Senate Republicans want to raise taxes on working Hoosiers to pay for roads in Indiana while continuing to cut corporate tax rates,” said Senator Lonnie M. Randolph (D-East Chicago).
The road funding bill now goes to conference committee where differences in the House and Senate versions of the bill must be reconciled. If approved, the bill would be put on Governor Eric Holcomb’s desk for signature into law.