Investment in roads a good sign

(Terre Haute) Tribune-Star

With another legislative session completed, it’s important to reflect on the remarkable progress lawmakers made in addressing the pressing needs of Indiana’s infrastructure.

Consider this: The General Assembly, which is controlled by the Republican Party in the governor’s office and supermajorities in both legislative chambers, passed a 10-cent-a-gallon gas tax increase to fund road repair and construction needs for the next 20 years.

Republicans for years have fought against every hint of tax hikes. The fact that taxes were increased this year shows substantial progress toward an acknowledgment by the GOP that responsible governing sometimes requires an investment in important community assets such as roads and bridges.

Indiana’s gas tax will raise to 28 cents a gallon at the pumps July 1. The money goes toward road funding, and in the first year the tax should raise $357 million for the Indiana Department of Transportation and $260 million for local road projects.

What’s more, a registration fee of $15 per vehicle will be implemented on Jan. 1, 2018, with the fee rising to $150 for electric vehicles that do not use gas but travel on Indiana roads.

It’s been a long time coming, but Indiana’s political leaders have finally come to grips with the poor overall condition of the state’s road infrastructure. Gov. Eric Holcomb campaigned on the issue strongly last year and made it clear that if some kind of tax increase was needed to get the state back on track, then he would be willing to advocate for it, even though his party has long been a steadfast opponent of tax increases. Likewise, House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, and Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, pushed for the roads package.

There will be more issues pertaining to road funding to consider in the future, including adding tolls on roads such as Interstate 70 through the state to help sustain road improvements. But it will be years before those matters take center stage.

Meanwhile, we applaud Holcomb and lawmakers for standing up for Indiana’s infrastructure future. The plan isn’t perfect. Big programs such as this rarely are. But this plan represents a major step forward for improving the state’s vital transportation assets.

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