Indiana bill to increase gas tax, vehicle fees clears first hurdle

The 2017 Indiana legislative session starts this week. Lawmakers will focus on the budget, and are eyeing taxes to help fund roads. (WISH Photo/Nick Natario)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – A plan to fix Indiana roads by increasing the price at the pump cleared its first hurdle Wednesday.

The House Roads and Transportation Committee approved to move the bill forward by a vote of 8 to 5 Wednesday. This comes a month after Indiana republicans announced plans to increase the gas tax and vehicle fees to fix roads earlier this month. Before the vote, more than two dozen people addressed lawmakers.

“Do we really want the crossroads of America, which we’re proud of, to have such high fuel taxes,” Tea party member Al Parsons said. “Do we want our citizens driving to our border states to fill up?”

“As children to play in the street, but they shouldn’t have to play dodge ball, or play stickball, or cricket, or any other games that they play now and dodge potholes at the same time,” Gary, Indiana Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said.

INDOT told lawmakers Wednesday it needs a billion dollars a year for the next 20 years to fix aging roads. To do this, house republicans proposed a plan.

It would increase the price at the pump by 10 cents a gallon. Hoosiers would have to pay an annual $15 vehicle fee and $150 dollar annual fee on electric cars.

In all, lawmakers say it would cost people $60 more a year. “It’s a choice,” State Rep. Ed Soliday said. “If you want to pay less than $5 a month, then drive less. The user pays.”

Democrats want to eliminate wealthy tax breaks, or freeze state funds. “I keep hearing this called a user fee,” State Rep. Dan Forestal said. “We keep trying to call, what is to the best of my recollection, an investigation into the largest tax increase in Indiana’s history.”

But republicans say the tax increases make more sense, and will continue to push this bill forward. “Do we seriously freeze all of that instead of paying $5 more a month,” State Rep Soliday said. “I don’t mind paying $5 more a month.”

Wednesday was a joint house hearing between roads and transportation, and ways and means committees. Ways and means did not vote however.

The bill will head there next. If it does eventually come into law, Hoosiers won’t have to wait long. The 10 cent jump would start in five months.

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