Legislators: Base gas tax on those who use roads, pay for the roads

Sunday, March 19, 2017
Banner Graphic/ERIC BERNSEE Former Republican County Chairman Larry Sutton (left) chats with District 37 State Sen. Rod Bray, whose district cover the southern half of Greencastle and Putnam County, as District 24 State Sen. John Crane (background) talks with other constituents during the final 2017 Legislative Update session Saturday at the Farm Bureau office in Greencastle. More than 50 people were in attendance.

In a sense, Hoosier drivers can see the disrepair and feel the need for road work as they thump along over deteriorating Indiana highways. But that doesn’t mean that House Bill 1002 is a sure thing for passage in the current session of the Indiana General Assembly.

The bill, currently under discussion in the State Senate, proposes a 10-cent increase in the state gasoline tax, which presently is 18 cents per gallon and has not been raised since 2003.

At the third and final Legislative Update session of the year on Saturday at the Farm Bureau office in Greencastle, legislators representing Putnam County all agreed with the notion that, as District 24 State Sen. John Crane (R-Avon) articulated, “Those who use the roads should pay for the roads.”

In fairness, however, that would require creating a user fee of some sort, which seems impractical to implement.

Still, the philosophy, District 44 State Rep. Jim Baird (R-Greencastle), said is that “those who use the roads the most, pay the most.”

Baird also dashed a theory that interstate truckers can fill up their tanks in Illinois and drive right through Indiana without contributing to the cause.

Conversely, that is one reason why, Baird said, “when truckers drive through, they keep a logbook on how many miles that have driven in our state. So we’re getting that revenue too.”

The damage caused by such big rigs, District 37 State Sen. Rod Bray (R-Martinsville) said, is 2600 times more than the average four-door sedan.

Hoosier lawmakers say that over the next 20 years, Indiana needs, on average, more than an additional $1 billion annually to maintain and improve the state’s roads and bridges. The need for local roads, meanwhile, is estimated at about $775 million annually.

With the current proposed increase of 10 cents, House Speaker Brian Bosma has said the plan would cost the average Hoosier $63 a year in new taxes and fees.

But that’s nothing compared to some of the figures presented in information disseminated Saturday by Rep. Baird.

For example, on average, Hoosier drivers spend an extra $491 annually on vehicle repairs due to poor roads in the state.

Meanwhile, 97 percent of local agencies say their revenues are inadequate to maintain current roads.

According to INDOT and other sources, 21 percent of Indiana’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, while 9.5 percent of Indiana’s major roads are listed in “poor” condition.

Other provisions within proposed HB 1002 include:

-- A new $15 fee for all vehicles or a $150 fee for all electric vehicles (which would not be paying the gas tax at the pump).

-- An automatic inflationary adjustment of not more than a penny a year on the gas tax through 2024.

-- A requirement that INDOT study toll roads with Interstate 70 listed as one of the possibilities.

Overall, the plan would bring in between $600 million and $760 million annually over the next four years for the state, while netting between $300 million and $381 million for use on local roads.

“The alternative,” Farm Bureau moderator Steve Cash noted Saturday, “is putting it on your (property) tax bill ... I don’t think so.

“I’m not happy about paying more money for gas,” he added,”but I will if it improves our roads.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Crane characterized HB 1002 as one of the “big-ticket items” the Senate has just seen come over from the House.

“We just had our first meaningful discussion about it in caucus this week,” he said. “We’re challenged that we’ve got a problem that the roads need to be addressed and we’ve got limited resources.”

Key ideas are being discussed, he assured, noting that the Senate “hasn’t honed in on what the final product will be.”

Crane said he welcomes input from the public.

“Of course,” he said, “we’ve heard plenty from those who don’t want to raise taxes.”

With the General Assembly now past the halfway mark and bills in the opposite house to that of their origin, major work continues, Crane said.

Overall, the freshman senator stressed, the prevailing idea is “trying to make the best decisions

View 3 comments
Note: The nature of the Internet makes it impractical for our staff to review every comment. Please note that those who post comments on this website may do so using a screen name, which may or may not reflect a website user's actual name. Readers should be careful not to assign comments to real people who may have names similar to screen names. Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.
  • Please explain how truckers keeping log books creates revenue??? That statement makes no sense by itself. Are they taxed based on where their log books say they drove?

    -- Posted by Geologist on Sun, Mar 19, 2017, at 10:00 PM
  • *

    @VolunteerFF - You're right. It didn't make sense without context...

    That aside, John Crane's comment about, "Those who use the roads should pay for the roads," is idiotic. People are already taxed for it!

    What he meant to say is, "Those who use the roads should pay *what I think they should pay* for the roads."

    -- Posted by DouglasQuaid on Mon, Mar 20, 2017, at 10:41 AM
  • @VolunteerFF, quarterly fuel tax is paid based on the jurisdiction miles traveled.

    -- Posted by JJ88 on Tue, Mar 21, 2017, at 9:41 AM
Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: