Indiana bills would aid local road work

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 1/6/2012

Funding for local roads and bridges is getting attention by Indiana lawmakers in the first week of the regular session.

Advocates for increasing local funding say the state would be better served to prioritize resources to preserve existing roads and bridges before taking on new highway projects. They say more costs to road users through tolls and fees on taxpayer-funded roads and bridges are unacceptable, as is shifting the repair costs to future generations.

Sen. Tim Skinner, D-Terre Haute, introduced a bill package that would increase funding dedicated to local projects. The first bill – SB217 – would route two-thirds of 1 percent of the state sales tax to counties, cities and towns based on the share of local road and street mileage. The money now goes to the state’s general fund.

According to a fiscal statement, the shift would amount to about $94 million for local road projects during the next two years.

The second bill – SB219 – would create a highway loan fund to provide financing to counties and municipalities for construction projects.

The Indiana Department of Transportation would be in charge of $1.5 million the bill would appropriate to the fund.

At the end of the year, money in the fund would not go back to the state’s general fund. Instead, the state would reinvest the money not needed to make loans. All accrued interest would be deposited into the fund.

The state DOT would determine loan amounts for projects, loan length that is not to exceed 25 years and the interest rate up to 2 percent.

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, introduced one more bill – SB98 – to give counties some flexibility to use property tax funds and other revenue in the local general fund to help pay for maintaining county roads.

Indiana law now limits use of general funds for local road work to emergencies.

Counties regularly rely on road funding from the state’s fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees. Revenue also comes from the county vehicle excise surtax, county wheel tax, income taxes and riverboat taxes.

All three bills are awaiting consideration in Senate committees.

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