IN Focus: Should state increase gas, cigarette taxes to pay for roads?

Politics
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INDIANAPOLIS (Feb. 21, 2016) - Should state lawmakers increase the state's gas and cigarette taxes to pay for roads and bridges?

That discussion continues at the Statehouse, as this year's legislative session draws to a close next month.

House Republicans already voted 62-35 to approve an increase in the state’s gas tax  as part of a long-term funding solution to fix, maintain and upgrade Indiana roads. But the plan isn't likely to pass the Senate, which has its own roads plan backed by Gov. Mike Pence.

Under the plan unveiled by House Republicans, the state’s gas tax would increase for the first time in more than a decade to 22 cents per gallon, a four cent increase. Diesel fuel would increase seven cents per gallon.

Bosma said the average Hoosier driver would pay an additional $25 a year, noting unlike the state’s sales tax, the gas tax doesn’t change with inflation.

Anti-tax groups like American for Prosperity have stood in opposition to Bosma's plan.

In the video above, AFP state director Justin Stevens discusses his views on the issue, and why he feels the tax is the wrong plan for Indiana.

“A revenue enhancement or a tax increase, we consider the two things the same,” Justin Stevens said the Indiana state director for Americans for Prosperity, which plans a campaign against the measure. “So it is a tax increase.”

AFP also unveiled a new ad in recent weeks opposing the gas tax increase, an ad that Bosma says doesn't have much impact on the legislative process.

"I don't believe it has much impact," said Bosma in a news conference Thursday. "We're listening to Hoosier voters and our constituents not necessarily to ads."

Still, Bosma admits the plan may not get thru the Senate intact.

"I've gotten a strong sentiment that this is a great plan but maybe not the right time," said Bosma. "We're trying to make the case that it's the right time... what I would anticipate is concern about taking these actions in an election year. (That's) probably the biggest concern I've heard."

Perhaps the toughest sell will be Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

His spokesperson said in a recent statement, “Governor Pence believes the last place to look when we have the best credit rating and $2 billion in reserves is in the pocketbooks of hardworking Hoosiers.”

“I feel very comfortable saying it’s time to invest in our roads and infrastructure,” Bosma said. “I’m anti-tax. I am however pro-growth. And this is an economic growth proposal.”

Other significant parts of the House transportation plan include a $1 increase in the state’s cigarette tax, a move that's supported by Tobacco Free Indiana, whose spokesperson Lindsay Lux also appears in the video above.

“Our bridges, our roads need investment,” Bosma said. “Not just for economic reasons, but to keep Hoosiers safe.”

 

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