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SOLIDAY: New revenue critical to keep roads, economy going

January 16, 2016

DEBATE QCan Indiana maintain its roads without raising taxes? If so, how?

 

Soliday
AIndiana’s transportation infrastructure touches every sector of our economy and drives development. As chair of the House Committee on Roads and Transportation, I am committed to ensuring our roads and bridges are safe and continue to support Indiana’s thriving economy.

This legislative session, I am authoring a responsible, comprehensive and sustainable infrastructure funding plan to preserve our reputation as the Crossroads of America.

This plan was not developed overnight. In fact, it is based on years of research and data.

 In 2011, the Indiana General Assembly established a joint study committee to use a data-driven approach to define the condition of Indiana’s transportation infrastructure and projected needs. That committee gathered information from many sources, including the Indiana Department of Transportation, the Association of Counties, the Purdue Local Technical Assistance Program, the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Association of Cities and Towns.

It became clear early on that we needed more than a billion dollars a year in additional funding to address the deterioration of our roads and bridges at state and local levels, as well as to accomplish Gov. Mike Pence’s challenge that, “We take care of what we have, finish what we started, then build for the future.”

In 2013, INDOT was directed to engage an outside consultant, Cambridge Systematics, to build a tool to explore as many infrastructure funding methods as possible and model the potential income generated by each source over the next 25 years. The consultant also determined metrics to benchmark Indiana with other states.

Before the joint study committee, the consultant testified that Indiana’s infrastructure ranked in the bottom third of the nation and graphicallydemonstrated projected INDOT funding shortfalls in coming years if significant new revenues were not found.

In 2014, the INDOT commissioner testified before several committees that an additional $250 million to $300 million annually would be necessary just to stop the decline of our roads and bridges. Specific examples were given about what bridge conditions would be in coming years if we continued funding as we had in the past.

In light of the Cambridge study, testimony and the data gathered throughout the years, it became more than obvious that significant sources of new revenue had to be found if we were going to be able to take care of our current infrastructure, let alone finish new projects the state had started or even build for our future economic growth.

Today, infrastructure in Indiana is primarily funded by a fixed gasoline tax of 18 cents per gallon, a level established in 2002. Inflation has since reduced the purchasing power of this funding source by more than 25 percent.

In the meantime, vehicles are using less gasoline, further reducing the money available to maintain our roads and bridges. This will get worse and become critical as auto manufacturers strive to meet the federal CAFE standards of 55 mpg by 2025.

House Bill 1001 is built upon three principles: fiscal responsibility, data-driven metrics and sustainable infrastructure funding to support a safe, efficient transportation system and a thriving economy, without creating long-term debt for our children.•

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Soliday, a Republican from Valparaiso, represents House District 4. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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