As session winds down, Statehouse debate continues on road funding, cigarette tax

INDIANAPOLIS Ind. (WISH) – As the session at the Indiana Statehouse begins to wrap up, the last-minute scramble begins. Two bills, one on road funding and the other regarding a cigarette tax increase, have grabbed the attention of many people.

Lawmakers are likely to vote down a $1 tax hike on cigarettes. Health officials argue raising the tax would help lower the state’s high smoking rate and improve Indiana’s health ranking. Lawmakers haven’t touched the current 99-cent-per-pack tax since 2007.

The road funding bill will be discussed in committee Monday morning.

The Indiana Department of Transportation says it needs a billion dollars a year for the next 20 years to fix roads and bridges.

The Indiana House passed a bill for road funding that would raise the price at the pump, add vehicle fees and rely on a cigarette tax increase. Senate Republicans don’t like the cigarette increase. Instead, they want tolling.

A proposed $1-per-pack hike in Indiana’s cigarette tax appears it will fail for the second year in a row. Last year, legislation died after former Gov. Mike Pence and the GOP-controlled Senate opposed it. This year, it’s Governor Eric Holcomb and the Senate opposing an increase pushed by House Republicans.

More than half of U.S. states have increased their cigarette taxes in the past 10 years, according to the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. Here in Indiana more than 20 percent of adults say they smoke, lawmakers haven’t touched the current 99-cent a pack tax since 2007.

The road funding bill will be in a conference committee Monday. That committee is made up of both Senate and House members in order to resolve disagreements on the bill.

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