My Democratic friends have been having a field day going after the Pence administration over the Wildcat Creek Bridge. As you know the bridge was shut down after workers, who were expanding the bridge, hit an artisan well thus the closure. INDOT expects the bridge to be open by the middle of September. However, because the bridge closure also impacted a major stretch of I-65, it has become a political discussion. My Democrat friends are arguing that Indiana does not spend enough on roads and the Governor is more concerned about the surplus than your axles. As the old saying goes, “politics ain’t no beanbag” but let’s make sure we have all the facts first…
- First of all, Indiana spends about $2 billion on roads annually; that comes the gas tax, federal funding and BMV fees.
- In 2013, lawmakers allocated $400 million ($200 million per year) of general fund money for state highways and interstates. The 2015 budget provided for $200 million ($100 million per year) of general fund money for state highways and interstates. Please note, there was no such general fund appropriation in recently passed budgets (within last decade).
- The 2013 and 2015 budgets shifted one percent of state sales tax revenue to road funding, including both local and state roads – this was brand new with the 2013 budget and resulted in approximately $70 million additional funding to roads per year.
- The 2013 and 2015 budgets also shifted expenses out of the Motor Vehicle Highway account so that more money could go to roads. This was also brand new with the 2013 budget and resulted in approximately $140 million additional funding to roads per year.
- The most recent survey of Hoosiers found about two-thirds of them are satisfied with Indiana’s roads.
Is all perfect with Indiana’s roads, of course not. But if my Democrat friends want to have a discussion about how we pay for roads in a world of declining gas tax revenues and higher mileage vehicles, I think their ideas would be welcome. Of course these are also the same people who floated 50-year road bonds to build roads that are now falling apart and you are paying interest on which helps total about $270 million annually.
So to say Indiana is doing a horrible job with roads, is not being intellectually honest, but then again these are the same people that tried to blame education reform on the teacher “shortage” and the facts didn’t bear them out in that either.
So how about we put the road rage aside and take a detour toward reality and real road funding solutions. Just a thought.