INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – As Hoosiers return home from Memorial Day weekend festivities, they’ll do some weaving through construction zones and numerous roads that need repair.
This summer, Indiana lawmakers are promising a sweeping study tasked with finding solutions to fix state and local roadways for the long-term.
“We’ve come to a consensus that we need to get an answer,” Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) said.
As part of more than 40 study committees announced last week, leading Republicans in the general assembly said infrastructure will be the top priority.
Last session, a long-term solution proposed by House Republicans was sent to the wayside that included raising the gas and cigarette tax. Indiana’s gas tax hasn’t been raised in more than a decade.
House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) will push a comprehensive plan again.
“It is my hope we can change the discussion a little bit from road expenditures being an expense to an investment,” Bosma said last week. “It surely is a fundamental core economic development function of state government, and it’s a conservative Republican principle to invest in infrastructure so the private sector can thrive.”
The House plan stalled in the Senate after concerns from Republicans about raising taxes, alongside deep reservations from Gov. Mike Pence.
When asked about discussing a gas tax hike again, Long said all options must be on the table.
“What are other states doing?” he said. “Texas, a public-private partnership, the tolling of truck lanes, ideas that are novel to Indiana. We really haven’t discussed that, but they need to be on the table, and we need to have some far-reaching discussions about how we are going to take care of our roads for the next decade or two.”
The battle is not only consuming the race for governor but will ultimately shape how lawmakers respond, given the next session of the General Assembly will coincide with the new term for governor.
“Our roads and our bridges are being neglected,” Democrat John Gregg said last week, while introducing his running-mate State Rep. Christina Hale.
But Pence touts major investments in state and local roadways.
“We’ve approved more than $2.5 billion that we would stay the crossroads of America,” Pence said at a campaign event earlier this month.
Committee members have yet to be assigned to the summer study committee, but the ultimate goal is a list of serious recommendations lawmakers can turn into legislation for the 2017 session.
“I will tell you already, we know this will be the House Republicans number one priority,” Bosma said. “To come back with a sustainable road funding program both for state and local government next year.”