By Ashley Shuler
INDIANAPOLIS – Attempts by Senate Democrats to make changes to the Senate Republican road funding plan failed Monday.
Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, spoke on behalf of the Senate Democrats for her giant amendment, which would have raised the cigarette tax, phased out a moratorium on corporate income taxes, and mandated Hoosiers businesses and workers be favored during road construction, among other items.
The road funding bill, if passed, would eventually increase this fuel price to $2.13. The gas tax is one of several components proposed to provide long-term funding for Indiana road maintence and construction. Photo by Ashley Shuler, TheStatehouseFile.com
The current Senate Republican plan includes a mix of tax increases and user fees, including a 10 cent increase in the gasoline tax phased in over two years. Senate leaders are also encouraging discussion of potential toll roads.
Tallian said her amendment would transform House Bill 1002 into a “Indiana jobs bill,” giving preference to Indiana businesses in the bidding process for construction and preference to Indiana workers for the contracting.
But Sen. Michael Crider, R-Greenfield, said Tallian’s 14-page amendment looked like a totally separate bill from the existing road funding proposal and was too specific about what can and can’t happen with construction businesses.
“I’m concerned about being so prescriptive with the language that we prohibit business,” Crider said.
Instead, Crider suggested the points be discussed after consulting the Indiana Department of Transportation and in conference committee, where members of the House and Senate work to reconcile the differences in their plans.
Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis, suggested a second amendment requiring that no less than 20 percent of road labor be completed by minority groups. Breaux said it would turn the road funding bill into an inclusive employment bill.
“The state already has standards to make sure that we hire minorities in our bidding processes,” said Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville. “We have an extended standard. We have a very thought out process in place, and this kind of restructures that.”
The failed amendments come after Gov. Eric Holcomb’s press conference last week, where he said tolls aren’t off the table for the road funding plan, as they could be a substantial revenue source for the state — but that exactly how and where to toll shouldn’t part of the discussion this session.
The governor, the House and the Senate will continue negotiating road funding details until the legislative session ends later this month.
Ashley Shuler is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.