The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Local Politics

April 4, 2013

Lack of wheel tax could hurt Madison County under GOP budget proposal

ANDERSON, Ind. — Madison County wouldn’t be eligible for additional road funds under a $30 billion two-year budget proposal released by the GOP-controlled Indiana Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

Why?

Because of the Madison County Council’s decision to rescind the wheel tax last year.

The Republican majority’s proposed budget would increase road funding for the Indiana Department of Transportation by $112 million annually, and provide another $101 million for counties, cities and towns.

But that extra money would only be available to counties that have enacted the wheel tax.

“There needs to be skin in the game,” Indiana Senate President David Long told news outlets. “There is a method for helping yourself — the wheel tax. We think if the state invests, so should the locals.”

Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said if the wheel tax were still in place at the same rate it had been, Madison County would be in line for an additional $1.4 million over two years in the Senate’s budget.

This year, the county received about $3.2 million from the state for road programs, according to the Association of Indiana Counties.

The Senate’s budget “certainly raises the ante in terms of what’s at stake,” said Lanane, who generally agrees with Long’s philosophy. ”But if we’re really going to take that position, perhaps we should do statewide wheel tax.”

Currently, the tax is optional, and 45 Indiana counties have chosen not to implement it.

County Councilman Rick Gardner, R-District 4, who has opposed the wheel tax and voted to rescind it in Madison County said he agrees that counties should have “skin in the game,” to receive extra money for roads.

“I do think that a county should put up its own money,” Gardner said, “but it shouldn’t make any difference what the source of that money is. ... If a county is willing to put in $1.5 million, they should get credit for that.”

In the budget passed by the Republican-controlled Indiana House, Madison County would receive about $1.6 million more money in the 2014-2015 budget cycle, which wouldn’t be tied to a specific tax, said Andrew Berger, director of governmental affairs and general counsel of the association of counties.

The state’s budget is still far from locked, however, even though the legislative session is fast winding down.

The full Senate isn’t expected to vote on its budget until next week.

After that, differences in the two proposed spending plans will be worked out in a conference committee.

Find Stu Hirsch on Facebook and @StuHirsch on Twitter, or call 640-4861.

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