Originally printed in the Post and Mail on January 28, 2017.
As you know, there are many times where I use this space as an advocacy spot for or against legislation going through the Statehouse. Well friends, this is going to be one of those articles, so buckle up.
House Bill (HB) 1002 is the Transportation Funding Bill that is working its way through the sausage-making process in the Indiana House of Representatives. After last year’s session, legislators were adamant that a long-term deal had to be reached for the future of transportation infrastructure. For years, we’ve seen declines in collections from gas taxes as the federal government has raised fuel standards. More cars going farther on a tank of gas equal less fill-ups which equal less dollars going into the state for maintenance/repair/replacement of roads and bridges. Furthermore, alternative vehicles don’t pay gas taxes, which further shrink the gas tax revenue. Finally, we are a donor state who sends more dollars to the feds in gas taxes than we receive back. That doesn’t even mention that the cost of building and/or maintaining a road has risen during the same time period. Therefore, a dollar from 14 years ago doesn’t go anywhere near as far now, as it did then.
Why 14 years you ask? Well, did you know that the last gas tax increase was in 2003? To put that into perspective, I was in my senior year of high school, Mike Davis was still at the helm of the Indiana Men’s Basketball program, and George W Bush was in his first term as President. Frankly, that was a long time ago. And clearly something has to be done in the here and now. You and I waited at least three years longer than we should have to see the repaving of State Road 9 through Columbia City. Many of you called the Indiana Department of Transportation to express your displeasure and concern for the condition of the road, prior to the repaving. I can even recall countless stories of bent rims, blown tires, and vehicular damage due to the delayed repaving. Another example would be the stretch of I-69 around Anderson. As you know, I am an Anderson University Alumni, so I’ve driven that area many times over the last 14 years for college events, work meetings, or conferences. Three years ago, the North-bound lanes were barely drivable and now the South-bound lanes are in bad shape. This is unacceptable for us as citizens, and for visitors who are traveling to and through our fine state.
Republicans and Democrats are coming together to address the issue because Hoosiers know that Roads mean Jobs. Economically, how can businesses thrive if their workers are busting tires, and their trucks can’t easily traverse our state and local roads? In fact, 80% of Indiana manufactured goods are transported on our highways and almost 10% of all roadways in Indiana are in “poor” condition.
Now before you start believing that I’m a tax-friendly RINO (Republican In Name Only), I want to reassure you that I’m not advocating an enormous tax increase. In fact, the gas tax increase presented by the legislature will only cost the average motorist an additional $48 per year – much less than a blown out tire or busted tire rim. In fact, the average Hoosier Driver spends an extra $491 per year on vehicle repairs due to poor roads!! We’ve worked hard over the past 5 years to make paving a priority in our community. However, it wasn’t without sacrifice. Because of the declining gas tax revenues and the increasing price of paving, we’ve been allocating Economic Development Income Tax Dollars towards paving. This bill would increase dollars going into road improvements at both the state and local levels. No one likes tax hikes, but this is one that will benefit all Hoosiers. I support HB 1002.
Until Next Time…
Mayor Ryan Daniel, Columbia City