IN Focus: One-on-one with Speaker Bosma

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INDIANAPOLIS – Hoosiers can expect to pay more at the gas pump to help fix Indiana roads, if a plan House Republicans announced Wednesday, passes the General Assembly.

A large contingent of lawmakers, business and city leaders united around House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis), just hours before the House first met for the 2017 session.

“For far too long we’ve kicked the can down the road,” Bosma said.

The plan would fund road repairs and new projects for the next 20 years.

To do so, lawmakers are largely looking to taxpayers and anyone who drives a vehicle to help pay the tab.

“It’s time to invest,” Bosma said. “Investing through dedicated funds through user fees is the wave of the future.”

The proposal includes a 10 cent hike in the state’s gas tax, an annual $15 fee on all registered vehicles and $150 annual fee on electric vehicles.

Bosma said on average it would cost Hoosiers an extra $5 a month.

“When it comes to road and bridge funding, we all share the same goal,” Republican Governor-elect Eric Holcomb said in a statement. “Creating a long-term, sustainable plan that strongly positions us for the future, and I’m confident we’ll have one before we adjourn.”

The Indiana Department of Transportation would also be ordered to study tolling options and asking the federal government for a waiver to allow tolling.

“I think the fact many of us are willing to step forward and say yeah we think this is important speaks to just how critical the infrastructure need is in the state of Indiana,” Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness said.

Republicans close to the plan said the state needs on average $1.2 billion a year to fund road repairs and new projects. As part of the plan, over a four-year period, gas tax money currently going into the general fund would be re-directed toward transportation needs.

Already, though, there has been some push-back.

“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, Indiana state director for Americans for Prosperity.

A number of Indiana Republicans have also signed a pledge to never raise taxes, a pledge that will force them to make a tough decision.

“We’ve had some people who have signed those many years ago and it’s being held over their head like it’s a blood compact,” Bosma said.

State Democratic leaders have voiced concern and opposition as well.

“How are they going to explain that?” State Sen. Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) said. “That when you and I go to the gas pump we pay more at the pump and we’re gonna still be giving more tax breaks to corporations.”

Republicans leaders, though, said Wednesday the need is dire and this plan is the only long-term option.

“This benefits every Hoosier who uses the roads,” Bosma said. “If you drive more, you pay more. If you drive less and use the asset less, you pay less. I think it makes a great deal of sense.”

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