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House Democrats propose $2 billion plan to improve Indiana roads, bridges

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PHOTO CREDIT: DODGERTONSKILLHAUSE/MORGUEFILE
  • Photo Credit: DodgertonSkillhause/Morguefile
 

Indiana House Democrats proposed their plan Monday to fix Indiana’s roads and bridges less than a month after the governor announced his plan, “21st Century Crossroads.”

“Unlike some other public services, roads have lasting, measurable value,” House Minority Leader, Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, said in a statement. “Once skilled workers are done with the job, the improved road and bridge becomes a lasting asset to businesses, manufacturers, and people earning a living. They in turn can generate new jobs and revenues for the rest of us…and before you know it, the reserves are back where the accountants don’t get the shakes any more.”

The Democrats’ plan – Crossroads Tomorrow – promises $2 billion over the next four years, compared to Gov. Mike Pence’s $1 billion proposal.

The governor’s office was dismissive about the Democrats’ plan.

“Gov. Pence welcomes House Democrats to the conversation about infrastructure funding. Sadly, the plan presented today by House Democrats forces Hoosiers to choose between cutting $500 million from the general fund for vital services like K-12 tuition support, teacher pensions, Medicaid and state hospitals or going broke in four years. That is irresponsible and not serious. Gov. Pence proposed a responsible plan that provides vital infrastructure funding without raising taxes or cutting vital services for Hoosier families,” said Pence spokesman Matt Lloyd.

The Democrats say their plan is less complicated than the governor’s.

“Our plan is based on a simple concept. Every tax dollar you pay at your gas station should go to fix your street or highway or bridge,” Pelath said in a statement.

Pence’s plan brought together $1 billion from a variety of sources.

  • Reserves: The state is projected to have more than $2 billion in reserves beginning in July 2016. Approximately $241 million may be invested in roads and bridges while maintaining 11.5 percent of the state’s annual budget in reserves.
  • Budget Appropriations: During upcoming budget sessions of the legislature, Gov. Pence would propose an additional $150 million during fiscal years 2018, 2019 and 2020, for a total of $450 million.
  • Next Generation Trust Fund: The 2006 Major Moves program invested $500 million in a trust fund. An accelerated distribution of interest in 2019 would contribute an additional $50 million.
  • Bond Financing: Indiana’s AAA credit rating and extraordinarily low interest rates will provide an additional source of $240 million.
  • Refinance existing bonds: At current interest rates, refinancing existing bonds will contribute $6.5 million in annual savings through 2029.
The plan will be offered during the 2016 legislative session and directs proceeds from the state’s gasoline sales tax and special fuels tax, a total of about $525 million a year, toward the projects.

“The problem is that the governor’s plan is meek,” Pelath said in a statement. “It doesn’t go far enough, it ignores the needs of local government, and it relies upon bonding, which would put a greater burden on taxpayers for years into the future. You can judge its effectiveness by the tepid response it received from the leadership of his Republican supermajorities, none of whom erupted into paroxysms of joy when the plan announced.”

Democrats estimate, based on 2015 figures, Crossroads Tomorrow would provide $279 million for state roads and $246 million would be allocated for local roads.

“Would this fix every road or bridge in Indiana? No, but it is bolder, fairer, and more understandable to the public than anything suggested so far. It is what is needed in Indiana right now.”

TheStatehouseFile.com is a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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