Indiana House Democrats announce roads plan without tax increase

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana House Democrats are pushing a road funding plan that they say won't raise taxes on average motorists.

GOP leaders in the House have proposed a 10-cent increase to the state's 18-cents per gallon gasoline tax, as well as additional registration fees. Democrats say their alternative demonstrates there are other ways to pay for improvements.

"I think it needs to be repeated so people remember it," State Rep. Dan Forestal (D-Indianapolis) said. "We do this without raising taxes on hard-working Hoosiers."

Under the plan shared Monday, House Democrats would freeze corporate and high-income tax cuts, put revenue from the existing sales tax on gasoline toward infrastructure and allow a trust fund to be used for local road loans. It also projects collecting $300 million annually in reversions through agencies cutting waste, fraud and abuse.

"When you go out into the actual world, what you hear from people is, 'I thought Indiana had all this extra money laying around,'" House Minority Leader Scott Pelath (D-Michigan City) said.

Leading Republicans quickly responded Monday and said any tax freeze would actually raise taxes on Hoosier employers.

"So what I would ask Democrats to do is look to those folks that are going to get these high-wage, high-skilled jobs and tell them that this is our plan to have those employers retract rather than expand," House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) said Thursday.

House Republicans are pushing statewide support for their own plan, starting an online campaign targeting potholes.

The real debate inside the Statehouse is among Republicans and whether a user-fee approach, like raising the state's gas tax and new fees at the BMV, will generate the votes needed to pass.

"The biggest issue obviously is how do you raise that money and there's no consensus yet," State Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) said Thursday.

Pelath says he expects the Democratic proposal to be discussed in the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday.

Gov. Eric Holcomb (R-Ind.) told FOX 59 Saturday he will look at the plan as well.

"What I have said is everything at this point is on the table," Holcomb said. "I want to make sure we have a plan by no later than April 29 that is data-driven, sustainable and make sure we can pay for the roads and bridges Indiana needs."