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Holcomb: Tolls In, Cigarette Taxes Out As Negotiators Finalize Road Funding Plan

Tolls are in and cigarette taxes are out if Governor Holcomb gets his way in a final road funding bill.

Holcomb is offering his most specific ideas so far on the final shape of a road funding plan. He says the cost of building and maintaining roads should fall on those who drive on them, and says provisions in both the House and Senate bills calling for the state to apply for federal tolling approval probably have to be part of a final plan.

Neither the House nor the Senate package reaches the one-point-two-billion dollars a year the state says it needs in order to fully fund roads, but Holcomb says their combinations of gas taxes and tire and vehicle fees would be enough to pay for road maintenance for the next 20 years. He says in six or seven years, the state will have to take "a hard look" at imposing tolls to raise money for new construction. But he says he doesn't want tolls on urban bypasses -- he's thinking more of truckers going state line to state line.

Holcomb praises the House and Senate bills, and says his plan all along has been to let the two chambers do their work, then help to forge consensus. Holcomb's initial thoughts align closely with the Senate version. He announced for the first time he opposes the House's proposed cigarette tax hike. He says an increase may be necessary down the road to shore up funding for Medicaid or the Healthy Indiana Plan insurance package, but says it should be tied to health programs, not roads. And, like the Senate, he says he'd prefer not to earmark gasoline sales taxes for roads.

Both the House and Senate have proposed gas tax increases and new BMV fees, with the Senate proposing a tire fee as well. Holcomb says negotiations over the next three weeks will settle the final mix, and says producing a sustainable funding plan will be a significant competitive advantage for Indiana over its neighbors.

(Photo by Eric Berman/WIBC.)

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