By Sarah Ramon
Gov. Mike Pence’s road funding plan is moving to the full Senate.
“One of the things that’s happening in the transportation space is that when trucks and cars become more fuel efficient, the less revenue is coming in from the gas tax,” said Micah Vincent
, Director of the Office of Management and Budget. “So that’s why road funding is such a big discussion right now is because of that change in landscape.
Senate Bill 333
would transfer funds from the state reserve fund to the state highway fund, if the reserves at the end of the state fiscal year are more than 11.5 percent. The 11.5 percent was chosen when last year’s revenue exceeded Vincent’s previous estimate.
“We were doing a lot of research looking at and talking with the rating agencies, our financial consultants and the government finance industry internally here, but also with members of the General Assembly and we became comfortable that 11.5 percent was a good level to land on,” he said.
Committee members added an amendment Thursday to push the bill’s bonding authority until next year. Previously, the legislation would use bonding to take out debt for the transportation projects. If the bill becomes law, bonding would not be made available until April 30, 2017.
“If for ever reason we would need it, we would still have that discussion in the budget section,” said Vincent. “But, right now with what we’re expecting, we wouldn’t need that to meet the annual need of the next several years.”
Author of the bill, Sen. Carlin Yoder
, R-Middlebury, said Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, pushed for the amendment and the governor’s office also agreed.
“So it doesn’t affect the bill in any substantial way other than moving back the bonding issues for a year and with increasing revenue projections looking the way they are, I don’t think it’s a big deal,” Yoder said. “I think it remains a good bill.”
Yoder also believes SB 333 matches Pence’s road funding goal.
“He strongly opposes any tax increases at this point especially with our economy and our budget the way it is and I happen to agree with him on it and this [bill] backs that up,” Yoder said.
If the bill becomes law, Vincent hopes to see improvements in the conditions of roads and bridges by 2021.
The amended bill passed 11-0 and moves on to the Senate.