Originally printed as an Editorial in the Indy Star, April 14.
The vast majority of the 150 members of the Indiana General Assembly are by nature reluctant to raise taxes — no matter the reason.
So the fact that both the House and the Senate have already signed off on tax and fee increases to improve streets and highways is a strong indication of how great the need is to invest significantly more money into Indiana’s roads.
But with two significantly different versions of the road funding bill now in conference committee, it’s critical that legislators not leave the job only partially done.
“This is a once in a generation opportunity to address infrastructure in our state,” Matthew Greller, executive director of Accelerate Indiana Municipalities, said this week. “It’s one of the easiest tax votes a legislator can make because repaving and repairing roads are evident improvements.”
Greller and the local elected leaders his organization represents are concerned, however, that the General Assembly will skimp on funneling enough dollars to local roads to drive significant improvement.
The House version of the legislation would increase local road funding by 42 percent. But the Senate version would set aside less than half that amount.
Noblesville Republican Sen. Luke Kenley, chairman of the Appropriations Committe, and other senators argue that local governments already have the ability on their own to raise money to meet road maintenance needs.
But, as Greller points out, the distribution of needs and resources is not equal throughout the state. It’s obvious in Indianapolis, for example, that far more money is needed to maintain streets and bridges. But Indy’s elected leaders also must address increased public safety needs, crumbling sidewalks, neglected parks and other basic services. And they have to do so without pushing tax rates so high that more residents flee for suburban counties.
Gov. Eric Holcomb should press conference committee members to adopt the House version of the bill. When it comes to finally adopting an adequate plan for long-term road funding in Indiana, we can’t afford to go half way.