Legislators revealed more of their negotiating strategies this week relative to road funding. The House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Rep. Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville) amended SB 333 to include provisions that could make the legislation more attractive to Governor Pence and Senate fiscal leaders. You will recall that the House Roads and Transportation Committee, chaired by Rep. Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso) had already amended SB 333 to include the House Republican long-term road funding plan including indexing the gas tax, dedicating more of the sales tax collected on fuel to highway accounts and other significant long-term road funding measures. With the Ways and Means Committee amendments, SB 333 now includes an additional $42 million for Governor Pence’s Regional Cities Program. This program, authorized by the legislature last year, was originally funded at $84 million ($42 million for each of two regions in the state). However, Governor Pence committed awards to three regions and therefore is requesting that the legislature approve an additional $42 million for the program. In addition, the Ways and Means Committee included funding for a “thirteenth check” for retired public employees, which is like a cost of living adjustment. Many legislators, both Republican and Democrat, support this provision. The House passed this amended version of SB 333 yesterday on a vote of 57-35.
Meanwhile, the Senate passed HB 1001 on vote of 39-11. You will recall that the Senate Appropriations Committee had amended HB 1001 last week, removing all of the long-term road funding provisions, replacing them with short term provisions and creating a new task force to study the issue over the next several months.
Both of these bills are now eligible for conference committee.
At the same time, legislators have been working to move SB 67 and HB 1110 through the process. You will recall that these bills release back to local governments locally generated tax funds that the state has been holding in reserve. The Senate proposal, now amended into HB 1110, requires locals to use the majority of the funds on infrastructure projects. The House version, now contained in SB 67, allows locals to use the funds for any legal purpose. These two bills will also be negotiated in conference and are part of the larger road funding negotiations.
ACTION REQUIRED: We ask, once again, that you to contact your Senator and the Governor’s office, because that’s where the reluctance is to tackle long-term road funding this year. House Republicans are holding strong on their commitment to enact long-term road funding solutions this year. Senate Republicans and Governor Pence don’t want to increase taxes; they support only short-term measures. Please call your Senator (click here for contact list) and Governor Pence’s office (317-232-4567), and ask them to support long-term road funding measures this year.
Legislative leaders and Governor Pence have begun negotiations, and we expect these to last through the weekend and into early next week. We appreciate your making phone calls up to this point. We must keep up grassroots pressure until the legislature adjourns late next week. Thank you, and call if you have any questions.