Opinion: Gas tax hike will be helpful

It’s easy to say we should look for spending cuts in our current budget to fund our infrastructure needs, but the fact is that after 12 years of sound fiscal leadership, our state budget is about as lean as it can get. We have 20 percent fewer state employees than we had when Gov. Mitch Daniels took office in 2005. And more than half of our current state budget goes to K-12 Education, so any significant increase in spending for infrastructure would likely result in less funding available for public education. Some suggest we use a portion of our state surplus for infrastructure needs.  We do have about $2 billion in reserves, but that equates to less than 60 days of state spending. That amount is intended to help us through an economic downturn, so spending it down significantly is not prudent. And it contributes to our AAA bond rating, which saves local governments hundreds of millions of dollars. The proposed tax increases in HB 1002 will cost the average Hoosier driver just $5.25 per month.  We’re already known as the Crossroads of America, and I believe that the proposed improvements in our state infrastructure will be a great economic development incentive that eventually will increase state tax revenue.  I believe the return on investment will more than offset the small contribution that we are looking for from Hoosier taxpayers. It’s a small sacrifice in comparison to the significant tax cuts that House Republicans have spearheaded over the last decade including, among others, significant cuts in the property tax, reducing the personal income tax, elimination of the inheritance tax, and a host of business tax cuts that save consumers money.

Jerry Torr (R-39) is a member of the Indiana House of Representatives, serving since 1996. You may contact him at jerry.torr@iga.in.gov.