House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, announces Wednesday a Republican road funding plan that relies on higher vehicles taxes and fees and possible tolling of Interstate highways. To Bosma's right are Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, and Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valporaiso. Staff photo by Dan Caden
House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, announces Wednesday a Republican road funding plan that relies on higher vehicles taxes and fees and possible tolling of Interstate highways. To Bosma's right are Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, and Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valporaiso. Staff photo by Dan Caden
INDIANAPOLIS — Hoosiers would pay higher gasoline taxes, vehicle registration fees and, someday, tolls to use Interstate highways under the 20-year road funding plan unveiled Wednesday by House Republicans.

"For far too long we've kicked this can down the road and been concerned about a single session, or a two-year term or the next administration, and it's time for us to think about the next generation," said House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis.

The proposal seeks to raise an average of $1.2 billion in new, dedicated money each year for the next two decades to improve the state's existing roads and bridges, add capacity where it will be most economically beneficial and provide additional funds to support local road projects.

"The investment is needed for Indiana's future; it's not an expense, it's an investment," Bosma said. "Our goal is not to strap the next generation with the costs of building assets today."

Under the plan, contained in House Bill 1002, the state's gasoline tax would jump 10 cents to 28 cents per gallon, to reclaim the buying power lost to inflation since the tax last was raised in 2003.

Likewise, the state tax on diesel and other motor vehicle fuels would go up 10 cents per gallon, and all fuel taxes automatically would increase in future years based on inflation and Indiana personal income changes.

In addition, all revenue from the state's 7 percent sales tax on gasoline, one-seventh of which currently is allocated for roads, would be used entirely for infrastructure starting in 2021.

Bosma admitted House Republicans don't yet have a plan for how that money would be replaced in Indiana's General Fund, which pays for education, health care, prisons and nearly everything else state government does.

The plan also calls for an additional $15 registration fee on every vehicle with an Indiana license plate.

That money would be directed to local road projects on top of the 47 percent local share of state fuel tax revenue.

Owners of electric-powered vehicles would pay an extra $150 since they don't pay gasoline tax.

Bosma said the extra taxes and fees altogether would cost the average Hoosier driver about $5 more than the $19 in federal and state fuel taxes currently paid each month.

New direction for state's highways, roads

It also would get the state closer to a user-pays road funding system where those who drive the most, pay the most to maintain the highways, Bosma said.

To that end, the House Republican plan would require the Indiana Department of Transportation to seek federal approval to toll the approximately 1,100 miles of existing Interstate highways crisscrossing Indiana.

State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, the lead sponsor of the legislation, said tolls are needed to help capture revenue from out-of-state drivers using Indiana-maintained roads, but who don't stop in the state for so much as a Snickers bar.

"When we look at the dollars from tolling, the numbers are very, very large," Soliday said. "There's over 182,000 vehicles crossing the Indiana state line on (Interstate) 80-94 every day, and half of those aren't Hoosiers."

Republican Gov.-elect Eric Holcomb, who is set to announce his road funding plan and the remainder of his legislative agenda Thursday, said he's encouraged by what House Republicans are proposing.

"When it comes to road and bridge funding, we all share the same goal — creating a long-term, sustainable plan that strongly positions us for the future, and I'm confident we'll have one before we adjourn," Holcomb said.

House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, acknowledged that Indiana's roads need urgent attention, especially in northern Indiana which sees more snow, ice and pavement freeze-thaw cycles than central or southern Indiana.

But Pelath suggested that before GOP lawmakers raise taxes on Hoosiers they should cancel previously enacted future tax cuts, mostly for businesses, that will sap more than $1 billion in state revenue between 2017 and 2022.

"Do not rich and poor, board room and shop floor, flashy and modest alike have a shared interest in rebuilding out infrastructure?" Pelath asked. "Don't we all stand to benefit from renewed investments?"

At the same time, Americans for Prosperity-Indiana, a conservative political advocacy group that aims to limit government spending, vowed to fight the proposed tax increases.

"Hoosiers overwhelmingly agree that if lawmakers aren't using existing money to make roads a priority, they should not be trusted with more of our hard-earned paychecks," said Justin Stevens, AFP state director.

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