BIC MATTERS: Urge Your Legislators and Gov. Holcomb to Support Road Funding Bill

TO: BIC Grassroots Network
FROM: Vicki Kitchin, Executive Director
DATE: April 11, 2017

BIC MATTERS: Urge Your Legislators and Governor Holcomb to Support Road Funding Bill

Within the next eleven days legislators from the House and Senate, along with Governor Eric Holcomb will need to hash out a long-term plan for additional road funding. This is a once in a generation opportunity to get it right and we believe they can do it. Yesterday’s conference committee hearing on HB 1002 provided a perfect launching point for these negotiations (see below for hearing recap).

What can you do to help? Within these next few days, make a point to reach out to your legislators. If you have a contact with Governor Holcomb or his staff, reach out there also. Your message is simple: Support long-term, dedicated, stable and adequate funding so that INDOT and local governments can provide the transportation system required to take Indiana to the next level. BIC supports the funding levels in the House-passed version of HB 1002 which would generate about $1.1 billion annually in new funding when fully implemented.

Please report to BIC any feedback you get from your legislators or the Governor’s office. It’s very important that we get a read on what legislators are telling constituents. After a deal is reached, both the House and Senate will need to vote on the agreement. You can reach BIC at (317) 439-2108.

Recap of April 10 Conference Committee Hearing
Thanks to all who attended the joint House-Senate Conference Committee meeting on HB 1002. We accomplished our goal of filling the House Chamber with road funding supporters. BIC members came from many corners of the state. We appreciate your time and effort.

Representative Ed Soliday (R-Valparaiso) chaired the meeting. He urged testifiers to limit remarks to three minutes each. Even with that guideline, the committee listened to over two hours of testimony mostly from supporters urging conferees to pass the higher funding levels contained in the House version of HB 1002.

INDOT Commissioner Joe McGuinness led testimony telling the committee that INDOT’s needs haven’t changed since he first testified earlier in session. He said INDOT’s needs have likely increased since January given the freeze/thaw cycles we’ve experienced this spring. He said INDOT needs additional funding just to preserve and maintain the existing system and the need grows from there when adding in capital projects designed for increased mobility. Chairman Soliday asked McGuinness to explain why Indiana needs to conduct a tolling study. McGuinness said there are many questions about tolling such as: what are the federal requirements; what could the state expect in revenue projections from tolls; on which interstates would tolling work best; and what are the costs of building out the system.

Several representatives from local government talked about their preference for the funding levels in the House version of HB 1002 and their grave concerns about the funding formula changes in the Senate version.

Bob McCullouch, Ph.D., P.E., Program Manager of Purdue LTAP, described the information his group analyzed from the local asset management plans submitted last year as part of the Community Crossings Grant program. He talked about local road and bridge condition ratings and the funding that would be required to maintain the system. The data is summarized in Purdue LTAP publication “12-2016 Indiana Local Road and Bridge Conditions.”

Others testifying in support included representatives from the logistics industry, mayors, state and local chambers of commerce, truckers, organized labor, engineers, commissioners, county government, farmers and Build Indiana Council. One anti-tax advocate testified in opposition, an oil company owner expressed concern with fuel pricing compared to neighboring states and one business expressed concern about increased truck registration fees.

Committee Discussion
When testimony concluded, Chairman Soliday urged committee discussion. Senator Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) commented that it had been a good hearing. He said the Senate tried to explore new ways to provide road funding. He emphasized that tolling will be necessary to provide future revenue. He said that the legislature has never before tried to raise this level of revenue for any purpose and that they have to do it this year. He thanked Chairman Soliday for leading the charge.

Senator Karen Tallian (D-Portage) said the Senate version of HB 1002 does not provide enough funding for local roads. She is concerned about increased truck fees and if the sales tax on gas is moved from the general fund to road accounts it has to be replaced by something. She agreed the state needs to look at tolling to capture revenue from out-of-state traffic.

Chairman Soliday recessed the meeting and said conferees would continue meeting to discuss issues and reach a final agreement before the end of the legislative session (likely to be Friday, April 21).