February 17, 2006
Dear Indiana Trucker,
Yesterday I testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee urging lawmakers to reject the governor's "Major Moves" initiative to lease the toll road to foreign interests. About 50 other individuals also testified in opposition, but it's doubtful we changed many minds on the lease so far - and time is running out.
The committee also heard from supporters of the bill. Most of these were people in the construction trades that believe they will benefit from the construction spending the nearly $4 billion up-front lease payment will generate.
We continue to believe this is a bad idea for the state and a very bad idea for truckers. If the toll road can be leased for up-front cash, every other road in the state can be viewed exactly the same way.
I believe a clear majority of Indiana citizens are opposed to this plan, but so far that isn't changing the minds of enough lawmakers.
The bill passed in the House by a narrow margin, 52 to 47. Chances are it only passed because House lawmakers promised they would freeze the tolls for residents of northern Indiana for 10 years, but such a freeze probably isn't even legal, so it's unlikely to be included in the final law.
Time is not on our side. The Senate is scheduled to vote on this Thursday, Feb. 23, so we have to act fast.
Lawmakers aren't likely to be persuaded to vote "no" simply because truckers don't want to pay higher tolls, but they might be persuaded if you tell them higher tolls will cause you to run alternate routes that don't have tolls.
They should also understand that signing a 75-year lease for up-front cash means we've mortgaged the future of our children and grandchildren. There is nothing conservative or fiscally responsible about this measure. As one of the opponents of the bill said at the hearing, "it's pawnshop mentality."
Certainly spending money on road construction will create construction and related jobs, but where will those jobs be and what will they pay when the money is gone?
Most of the widely publicized job losses in Indiana aren't because of lousy roads. They are because of outsourcing to foreign countries because of things like high health care costs and retirement benefits.
By all means, get a hold of your senator right now. Write a short letter to your local newspaper. You will be glad you did.
You can find your state lawmakers and get their contact information by going to vote-smart.org and entering your nine-digit zip. If you don't know the full nine-digit zip, the site does provide a link to assist with getting the last 4 digits.
You can e-mail your lawmaker by going to the following Web site:
OOIDA Executive Vice President