Legislative leaders meet with Gov. Pence Friday morning to begin final negotiations on how to pay for road repairs, and whether taxes will go up to do it.
Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) is adamant the Senate won't go along with House Republicans' call to raise taxes on gas and cigarettes -- he says there needs to be a more thorough study of just what the state is building and the options for paying for it.
“We need to continue to deal with the transportation needs of the state. The Senate bill does that; takes it out four years. That’s a significant amount of money,” Long says. “What we’re talking about spending is about as much as we can spend each year. We can only construct so many roads.”
And while Long acknowledges the remaining disagreement is over long-term funding, he argues it's misleading to dismiss the Senate's four-year plan as a short-term fix.
Senators have adopted Governor Pence's call to spend $1 billion on roads through 2020, with the first quarter of that money coming out of state reserves.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) has questioned whether the House plan is the sustainable long-range plan it claims to be, since income from cigarette taxes would decline as the higher price prods more smokers to quit.
Legislators must adjourn for the year by March 14, but plan to finish four days early, giving them a week to come up with a deal all sides can support.