Pence road repair plan step in right direction

(Anderson) Herald Bulletin

If the state decided it would spend an extra $1 billion on a public need, what would you propose?

Education?

Public safety?

Economic development?

Well, Gov. Mike Pence unveiled a plan, “21st Century Crossroads,” to spend $1 billion on repair of state roads and bridges.

While you could argue in favor of any of the other three possibilities listed above — or perhaps another cause — use of the money to improve the state’s highways is a defensible choice.

Roads with potholes, rough patches and other irregularities can lead to accidents, damage automobiles and give visitors to Indiana a bad impression of the state. And, frankly, many state highways are, put simply, in horrible shape.

Pence proposes to draw the $1 billion from several sources:

• $450 million in new spending by 2020

• $241 million from the state’s reserves

• $240 million through bonds

• $50 million in interest from the Next Generation Trust Fund

Each of these draw-downs would need approval from the Indiana General Assembly.

One of the positive aspects of Pence’s proposal: It would use public funds for a general public project that would benefit nearly all Hoosiers, since nearly all of us travel state highways.

The plan would be even better if it earmarked a substantial amount of money for repair and rebuilding of local roads. Local government units across the state are cash-strapped, thanks to property tax caps and unfunded initiatives from the state. And local roads — and motorists — are suffering.

Democrats decry Pence’s proposal for being too little too late, citing the monthlong shutdown of a 33-mile stretch of Interstate 65 after a bridge failed. That highway closure frustrated the tens of thousands of Hoosiers who use the stretch of highway daily.

Pence should have moved earlier to designate money for state and local road repair, but he’s moving in the right direction now.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to awoods@tribtown.com.