House, Senate Agree On Gas Tax Revenue; Road, Budget, Casino Bill Final Votes Friday
By Mike Perleberg
(Indianapolis, Ind.) – The Indiana legislature has agreed to a historic, long-term plan on road construction.
The development comes as lawmakers aim to adjourn the 2017 legislative session by Saturday.
“Our Senate colleagues have settles on a phase-in of the sales tax toward roads over an additional five years. By 2025, every penny paid at the pump will go directly to roads,” House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) told House lawmakers Thursday.
Shifting gas tax revenues from the general fund to be exclusively for roads and bridges was a major sticking point between the House and Senate, with the Senate initially resisting the idea.
Bosma says the plan is based on user fees, making sure those who use the roads are responsible for paying to have them improved. Senate President Pro Tempore David Long says in time, states will be responsible to pay all the costs for improving roads.
The plan will raise the gas tax by ten cents a gallon, going from 18-cents up to 28-cents. It is the first increase in the gas tax since 2003.
Hoosier drivers would also pay a new $15 annual vehicle registration fee for gas vehicles, a $150 fee on electric vehicles, and $50 on hybrids. Commercial vehicles will be subject to an additional $100 registration fee. Those fees haven’t risen since 1988.
The new taxes and fees will add about $1.2 billion a year for improvements to state and local roads and bridges.
The roads bill also opens the door for the governor to seek tolls on state highways or interstates with approval from the State Budget Committee.
The issue of improving Indiana’s transportation infrastructure was one of the biggest agenda items for lawmakers coming into the session.
“Hoosiers recognize the need to maintain and improve our infrastructure, and this conservative approach directs all fees paid at the pump directly to roads. This plan also ensures those who utilize our roads are paying for them. House and Senate lawmakers ultimately struck the right balance between funding Indiana’s greatest asset while protecting budget stability,” said Bosma.
Senate President Long (R-Fort Wayne) called the plan a historic, long-term investment in Indiana’s transportation infrastructure.
“Investing in our roads is crucial to public safety, economic development and quality of life across the state. This is a responsible, comprehensive funding plan and I look forward to seeing the positive benefits for our state in the years ahead,” he said.
Both the Senate and House must still approve the measure, which appears to be a mere formality at this point. Republicans own supermajorities in both the House and Senate. Governor Eric Holcomb, who has also identified road funding as a priority, would then have to sign it into law.
State lawmakers are also due to vote on a new state budget Friday. A conference committee approved a report on House Bill 1001 Thursday evening.
A bill that could impact riverboat casino revenues for local communities is also set for a final vote. Southeastern Indiana lawmakers State Rep. Randy Frye (R-Greensburg) and State Senator Chip Perfect (R-Lawrenceburg) are on the HB 1350 conference committee and were able to get amendments to the bill adopted Thursday.
The amendments potentially prevent any immediate loss is funding for casino host communities including Lawrenceburg and Rising Sun. The $48 million in annual hold harmless money paid by the state to host communities will remain until at least state fiscal year 2021. An earlier version of the bill had proposed reducing that amount to $30 million annually.