Could more privatization be on the horizon in Indiana?

| 1/8/2007

After the leasing of the Indiana Toll Road a year ago, it should be obvious to residents in the state that Gov. Mitch Daniels is a fan of privatization. It should also be no surprise that the governor is looking into other leasing deals.

Daniels’ agenda for the legislative session that began Monday, Jan. 8, is expected to include an effort to allow a private group to build and operate a toll route around a large portion of Indianapolis. The proposed 75-mile route would connect Interstate 69 northeast of the city with Interstate 70 to the southwest, The Associated Press reported.

The state would get money upfront and use it to help build the planned extension of I-69 through southern Indiana. It would be a toll-free route.

House Democrats plan to hold hearings on the proposal in areas that would be affected by the bypass, The AP reported.

The Toll Road lease was unpopular among Democrats in the statehouse a year ago. All but two of them opposed legislation allowing Daniels to lease the road to a private group.

Since then, the state signed a $3.8 billion, 75-year lease with a Spanish-Australian consortium – Cintra and Macquarie Infrastructure Group – to run the Toll Road.

The governor and most Republicans touted the lease agreement as a way to help pay for transportation projects and create tens of thousands of jobs throughout the state.

One other idea being tossed around before the start of the session would be to change how the state collects taxes on fuel.

House Democrats want to end the practice of collecting sales tax on fuel purchases. Indiana is one of nine states to collect the tax at the pump.

Republicans are against the idea. They say eliminating the revenue stream would cost the state at least $300 million a year.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor