By Matthew C. Greller
There isn’t a sustainable path towards building quality communities that doesn’t include quality infrastructure.For Indiana to be an economic leader we have to include our roads, streets, bridges and highways among our assets rather than our afterthoughts. Finding the right long-term solution to funding Indiana’s serious infrastructure needs is an economic necessity and meaningful discussions have finally started among the people with the power to effect change.
With a growing maintenance backlog of more than $410 million per year and the safety of our roads and bridges deteriorating,recent talk of serious solutions has energized local leaders. When reading the news and talking with lawmakers there is obvious bipartisan will to begin closing the road funding gaps that exist at the city, town, county and state levels. Those of us who have spent many years around the legislative process understand this aligning of stars doesn’t happen very often, where the Governor and all caucuses grasp the importance of tackling an issue that has proven historically vexing to solve.
The proposals on the table right now run the gamut and most of them deserve the vetting the legislative process provides. Some of the road funding solutions on the table include using Indiana’s surplus and interest from investments, increasing the cigarette tax, adjusting the gas tax for inflation, expanding the ability for locals to adopt a wheel tax or implement a local infrastructure income tax, creating grant programs, using the state’s local income tax reserves collected from cities and towns, reallocating the sales tax on gas 100% to road funding and looking at how the sales tax on gasoline is distributed.
It’s too early to cast stones or draw lines in the sand regarding which of these options are best and which are non-starters. The needs are too great, the economic consequences are too real and the security and safety of our traveling public is too important to shut down any discussions. Right now is a time to reiterate the importance of a long-term solution and express our gratitude for state leaders’ acknowledgement that the rubber has literally met the road and the time for action is now.
In terms of howthe many ideas up for consideration will materialize into a meaningful outcome, we’ll know when the eggs are fried. As with any major issue that comes before the General Assembly, there are many miles to travel between the unveiling of ideas, filing of bills and passage of laws. This one won’t be any different. Until then, we choose to remain open and optimistic that a long-term solution is upon us and the political will is present to take on an issue that is vital to the economic success of our state and the quality of life in our communities.
Greller is the Executive Director and CEO of the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns.