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AUDIO: Statehouse Democrats Put Forth Own Road Funding Plan, But Is It Too Late?

Posted On February 07, 2017

By Mike Perleberg

Indiana House Minority Leader Scott Pelath (left) and Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane. Photo via Indiana House Democratic Caucus.

(Indianapolis, Ind.) – Indiana House Democrats say they have an alternative way to raise money for road funding without increasing the gasoline tax.

House Minority Leader Scott Pelath (D-Michigan City) said the Democrats’ plan – the “No New Taxes Indiana Road Plan” – gives Indiana a choice in determining how we solve the crisis that is facing our state’s infrastructure.

“House Democrats believe we can do more—without raising new taxes or providing new tolls on roads—by ensuring that government lives within its means, and making sure that one class of taxpayers is not unfairly burdened with paying the freight for road repairs,” said Pelath.

Their proposal, unveiled Monday, would require all sales taxes collected from gasoline purchases be spent only on roads, putting another $113 million towards roads through 2021. It would also freeze future corporate income tax cuts, providing an additional $258 million over the next four years. Re-prioritizing money collected in reversions through agencies cutting waste, fraud and abuse would raise $300 million annually, the party leaders claim.

The Democratic idea varies from Republican lawmakers’ current plan to increase the state gas tax by 10-cents per gallon and raise vehicle registration fees by $15. The GOP proposal would also investigate tolling motorists who use some state and interstate highways.

State Rep. Dan Forestal (D-Indianapolis), the ranking Democrat on the House Roads and Transportation Committee, believes the Democrat plan uses existing resources instead of shifting the infrastructure burden to people just trying to make ends meet.

“I would invite everyone to compare our plan to that offered by the Republicans, which gives a huge tax cut to the connected 1 percent, and the largest tax hike in history to the rest of us,” said Forestal. “Our proposal also focuses on local roads, which make up 90 percent of such surfaces in our state. Our plan was crafted with hard-working Hoosiers in mind. Our Republican friends would be smart to listen to the voices of their constituents when they say they have been taxed enough.”

STATE REP. RANDY FRYE (R-GREENSBURG) DISCUSSES STATEHOUSE ISSUES ON EAGLE COUNTRY 99.3 ON MONDAY, FEBRUARY 6.

If the audio player does not appear, click here to listen to the interview.

Democrats expect to offer their proposal as an amendment to the Republican bill, House Bill 1002, when it goes to the House Ways and Means Committee Wednesday and when the bill eventually reaches the House floor.

It’s not likely to gain much traction in a statehouse where Republicans hold supermajorities in both chambers.

Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) cautioned that adopting the Democrats’ plan could harm business growth in the state. He criticized Democrats for waiting until six weeks into the 2017 legislative session to weigh in on the road infrastructure issue.

“Their plan would raise taxes, result in cuts to education and jeopardize our state’s AAA credit rating. In the last month alone, we have heard of many jobs and business investments coming to Indiana in direct response to our state’s top-ranked business climate and pro-growth policies. Raising taxes on Hoosier employers is the wrong move and would be a major employment setback for the average worker,” said Bosma, adding that the Republican plan is a data-driven, long-term plan.

State Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso) chairs the House roads committee. He dismissed the Democrats’ proposal as lacking sustainable funding.

“The door is always open for a bipartisan solution, but we refuse to kick the can down the road. Our plan is backed by years of study, producing a data-driven, lasting solution to Indiana’s infrastructure needs that does not create debt for future generations,” said Soliday.

Democrats are not the only ones railing against Republicans’ plans for a gas tax increase. Advertisements by the Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association opposing higher fuel taxes will soon adorn gas pumps across Indiana. The ads at gas pumps, filling stations and convenience stores will include the contact information for state lawmakers.

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