Chamber Statement on State Takeover of I-69 Project

Indiana Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Brinegar, who is also the board chair for Hoosier Voices for I-69, comments on the state’s announcement today that the Indiana Finance Authority is taking over management of the I-69 section from Bloomington to Martinsville:

“It’s the absolute right thing for the state to do to ensure that this segment and the entire project is completed as quickly as possible.

“We must stay on course, because the ramifications are too important. When fully finished, the new I-69 – from Evansville to Fort Wayne – will help further Indiana’s position as the Crossroads of America.

“It will provide many more Hoosiers with better road access, leading to reduced travel time. And that also is very attractive for businesses, making Indiana an even more viable hub for companies and new jobs.”

Real Journey Begins for Transportation Funding Bill

During a six-hour hearing before the House Roads and Transportation Committee, there were some technical changes made in the bill and the annual increase for the fuel tax was capped to no more than one cent per year. Chamber President Kevin Brinegar provided testimony that this bill was about “revenue recovery” on the lost buying power of the gas tax since it was last raised. (Read the Chamber’s full testimony.) That lost revenue, plus better fuel economy means less money for roads. The Chamber is grateful to board members Drew Coolidge with SIRVA (moving company) in Fort Wayne and John Thompson (owner of several Indiana-based businesses) who testified how better roads impact their business, their communities and Indiana. House Bill 1002 will be considered in the coming weeks by the Ways and Means Committee before the desired House floor vote.

Call to Action: Connect with your state representative via our grassroots page. Let them know today that long-term funding is important to you and your company!

Road Funding Committee Discussions Ramp Up

9809397An in-depth interim summer study committee on road funding (called FIRSST) held its second meeting last week. This was an input session that focused on how Indiana’s road conditions and funding compare to other states.

There were several informative presentations from several different groups including Conexus and the National Conference of State Legislatures. Points of interest from the discussion:

  • For the U.S., average funding sources for highways and transit are 25% federal, 40% state and 35% local.
  • Indiana’s deficient roads cost $391 per motorist per year. This includes flat tires, bent rims and other costs.
  • Some 16% or 9,965 miles of Indiana’s roads are considered in poor condition; that ranks us third among six Midwestern states.
  • A total of 10.2% or 1,944 Indiana bridges are considered deficient in quality; that ranks us second among six Midwestern states.
  • Investment in road infrastructure is declining, even when adjusted for inflation.
  • There are 54 potential funding sources for road funding ranging from fuel taxes to parking meters.
  • Fuel taxes have not kept up with the infrastructure needs. Automobiles are more fuel efficient and inflation has been eating away the buying power of gas taxes. Indiana last raised its gas tax in 2003 and it is not indexed for inflation.
  • As electric cars become more popular, very few states – including Indiana – impose fees for their use of roads. Of the 10 states that do, the fee ranges from $47.50-$200 per year.
  • Of the 50 states, 36 – Indiana among them – have toll roads.

The Indiana Chamber will continue to encourage the development and implementation of fiscal systems to support the array of transportation infrastructure projects critical to economic growth. The next FIRSST meeting is scheduled for September 29.

Senate Committee Amends House Roads Bill; Another Task Force Created

30449450The political wrangling between the House and Senate over the roads bill is in full swing. This bill has been substantially altered by the Senate Appropriations Committee at the direction of its chairman, Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville). Essentially, Kenley’s amendment removes all tax increases and decreases from the bill and establishes a task force to further assess the state’s needs for road funding – putting off difficult decisions to 2017.

Meanwhile, the original language of HB 1001 was inserted into SB 333, the Governor’s roads plan. Both bills are set up for conference committee negotiations. We expect the discussions and subsequent vote on this one will go down to the wire.

The Indiana Chamber has worked with legislative leaders as they attempt to address the state’s transportation infrastructure needs and nearly $1 billion annual maintenance deficit. The original language of HB 1001 represents a rational, long-term and sustainable system for roads, highways and bridges and is the Chamber’s preferred approach at this time.

Any movement is positive movement at this point and there are many elements to like in Kenley’s amendment, but another task force or working group (or whatever you care to call it) is viewed as unnecessary given the amount of timely studies and commissions that have already looked at the state’s infrastructure needs in recent years. The Chamber will work with all interested parties to address the state’s needs in the most rational and comprehensive way possible.

Call to Action: Please urge your representative and senator to support a long-term fix for Indiana’s roads and highways; you can do so online. Fuel taxes have not been raised in more than a decade and no other short-term policies will address the state’s needs as well as a set of comprehensive policies in the original HB 1001 language. No other legislation even comes close, even though short-term funding is helpful.

Senate Needs to Hear from You on Top Issue

36601064Highways and bridges are easily taken for granted. They only come to mind for most of us when something goes wrong: A car hits a large pothole or there is an inconvenient road closure. But if you look around, the inevitable aging of our infrastructure system is happening.

There are three legislative proposals to address a $1 billion a year maintenance shortfall in funding for roads and bridges. Only one, HB 1001, helps meet long-term needs.

Yes, it will cost the average driver $25 more a year in gasoline taxes. But we are all spending much more than that (an average of $366 per year) on automobile repairs due to poor quality roads.

Senators are reluctant to increase taxes in an election year. Employers and voters, however, want a long-term solution. It’s too important to our economy and the time to act is NOW.

Please email your state senator urging passage of HB 1001 and long-term road funding.

Learn more: Read the write-up on the HB 1001 committee hearing and this one-pager which outlines additional infrastructure facts.

Paving the Way for Good Roads

PollQuestion

We’ve got a new poll question (top right) asking about a strategy to pay for long-term infrastructure funding. The current House Republican plan calls for a modest gasoline tax increase and higher cigarette taxes (that would go toward Medicaid spending, with sales tax funds currently used in that area shifting to transportation).

More details on the legislation: HB 1001

The most recent poll asked for your top legislative priority. Civil rights expansion (36%) topped the list, followed by increased transportation funding (28%) and education testing reform (16%).

VIDEO: Time to Move Forward and Improve Indiana’s Infrastructure

Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar discusses the importance of improving Indiana’s infrastructure. 2016 looks to be the “year of infrastructure” at the Statehouse, and Brinegar asserts “Indiana can’t wait for Washington to act.”