INDIANAPOLIS — Legislative leaders proclaimed Monday that passing a long-term infrastructure funding plan, likely including tax increases, will be a top priority during the 2017 session of the Indiana General Assembly.

"It's inevitable that we have to find some new (revenue) sources. No question about it," said Senate President David Long, R-Fort Wayne.

"We've been hearing this discussion for quite a while now, and I think that the people of Indiana are ready for us to find a rational, thoughtful solution to this."

Speaking at an Indiana Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Long and House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, both suggested the 18-cent per gallon state gasoline tax, last hiked in 2003, should at least be adjusted for inflation since then and automatically increased in future years to maintain its value.

"That needs to happen and that's ... probably not that difficult to do if we want to sustain that resource," Long said.

Bosma observed that the state needs to raise between $1 billion and $1.5 billion a year for the foreseeable future to maintain Indiana's existing roads and bridges and invest in new projects tied to key economic growth areas.

He said he's open to reallocating existing state resources, such as revenue from the 7 percent sales tax on gasoline, and imposing new user fees, including highway tolls, to get the money needed "to really become the Crossroads of America."

"I'm looking for a long-term solution. Not something that gets us through the next administration, but that gets us through the next generation," Bosma said.

Since July, a legislative task force has been studying how Indiana and other states fund their roads. The committee is expected to issue its recommendations in December.

Long, Bosma and Republican Gov.-elect Eric Holcomb all have said the report of the Funding Indiana’s Roads for a Stronger, Safer Tomorrow, or FIRSST, Task Force will be the starting point for legislative negotiations on infrastructure spending.

House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said his members are ready to work with the Republican supermajority "to start building again."

"We may have different ideas about what the public may be willing to bite off on," Pelath said. "But I'm absolutely certain that every motorist, every voter, every citizen wants to see upgrades, not just general improvements but specific new thoroughfares in our state."

Beyond infrastructure, legislative leaders of both parties said during 2017 they are committed to enacting an honestly balanced, two-year state budget that preserves Indiana's top credit rating and maintains a roughly $2 billion reserve fund.

Long and Bosma also endorsed plans to improve workforce development programs, keep Indiana's school accountability system, adopt a new standardized test to replace ISTEP and at least double the five-county, 2,500 student state-funded pre-kindergarten pilot program.

They said there was little chance the General Assembly will enact a hate crimes law, statewide civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Hoosiers or extend the sales tax to services.

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