INDIANAPOLIS – Gov. Mike Pence kicked off the infrastructure debate with a $1 billion proposal to repair state highways, interstates and bridges. Local government officials want the governor and General Assembly to take it several steps further, and provide what the Indiana Association of Cities & Towns calls a “sustainable” funding source
Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane called the Pence proposal a “drop in the bucket” and pointed out, “We can repave state highways all we want, the fact is the majority of roads in the Hoosier State are maintained by local governments. For every one centerline mile of road the Indiana Department of Transportation maintains, cities, towns and counties maintain nearly nine. For every structurally deficient bridge INDOT must repair, locals have five.” IACT puts the statewide figures at 84,000 lane miles and INDOT/state maintains about 14,000 lane miles.  
IACT President Matthew Greller told Howey Politics Indiana on Wednesday that the Pence plan is a good start. “The big thing is it’s good the administration is addressing infrastructure in a very serious way with a very serious proposal and a lot of money. But it includes no money for city and town streets and county roads. I’m disappointed because the vast majority of road miles in Indiana are maintained by local governments.”
Greller said that the Pence administration contacted local officials. “They did say that they will begin discussions about how we address local roads.” Those discussions will come almost three years after the first Pence biennial budget pumped in $64.5 million for local roads.
In IACT’s view, the future should provide a sustainable source of road funding. “Everyone agrees we must build quality communities, attractive towns and cities, but how do we do that without infrastructure needs being met?” Greller asks.
“They did do a one-time infusion and that was appreciated,” he said of the 2013 budget. “That’s gone. We have to look beyond one-time infusions of cash. We have to find some type of sustainable, longterm funding mechanism.”
Greller believes that there are a number of incremental steps that can be taken quickly, and without a general gasoline tax hike. One would be to give cities and towns the authority to establish a wheel tax. Currently, only a county council can do that. Another would be to allow local governments to use local road funds “interchangeably.”
“Often you’ll have money in one account but not the other,” Greller said.
Another would be indexing the gas tax. “That’s something we should have done 20 years ago. If we had, we wouldn’t be in the shape we’re in now. We’re at the very low end of state local road funding.” And, Greller added, the state needs to look at user fees. The example he gave would be electric and hybrid vehicles pay little or no gas tax, yet contribute to the wear and tear on roads, bridges and highways.
Are these ideas resonating with legislators? “To some degree,” Greller said, noting that House Roads and Transportation Chairman Ed Soliday has authored legislation that would allow for local wheel taxes.