With 14 interstates, more than 11,000 miles of highway and 4,500 miles of rail, Indiana truly is the Crossroads of America.
Our transportation infrastructure not only helps Hoosiers get where they need to go each day, it also supports our growing economy. Because Indiana is within a day’s drive of 80 percent of the U.S. population, quality roads help manufacturers in our state get their goods to market quickly and efficiently.
Building and maintaining this robust network of transportation infrastructure requires considerable investment.
Indiana has allocated significant funding for our roads in the last two state budgets. However, our current funding sources aren’t keeping up with our road-funding needs for a variety of reasons, including improved fuel efficiency, aging infrastructure and the growing popularity of hybrid and electric vehicles.
In fact, according to the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), Indiana is facing a $1 billion annual road-funding deficit over the next 20 years. This money is needed to finish current construction projects, maintain existing roads and bridges, and complete new projects in the years ahead, including improvements to U.S. 30 from Fort Wayne to Valparaiso.
My first instinct when faced with a call for new state spending is to seek ways to reduce spending elsewhere. As our record shows, Statehouse Republicans have made tremendous strides in government efficiency over the last decade. We have balanced our budget, reduced state debt and eliminated harmful regulations. Furthermore, our per-capita state spending is 10th-lowest in the country and we have trimmed the number of state employees to the lowest level since 1982.
I’m always open to new ideas to improve government efficiency, but the reality is that we won’t be able to fully meet our road-funding needs simply by cutting elsewhere.
Over the past year, a bipartisan panel of state legislators, local government officials and private sector experts conducted an in-depth road-funding study to determine what options are available to raise new road revenue. The options the panel presented to the General Assembly include:
-Dedicating more of the sales tax on gasoline to road funding
-Raising and indexing fuel tax rates
-New fees on alternative vehicles that pay little or no fuel taxes
-Vehicle registration fees
-Increasing enforcement of truck weight violations
These options all take a “user-pays” approach whereby those who use our roads the most would pay the most, and also receive the most benefit.
While there is still much debate and deliberation to be done on this issue, it’s my goal this legislative session to arrive at a fair solution that will fund our road needs for the long term.
This challenge is on our watch. For me, it’s unacceptable to kick the can down the road for future generations to solve.
As always, I welcome your thoughts on this or any other issue before the legislature this year. My office can be reached by phone at 800-382-9467 or by email at Senator.Long@iga.in.gov.
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