INDIANAPOLIS — Henry County Highway Superintendent Joe Wiley is tired of getting calls from residents whose tires are flat and cars are muddied from his crumbling roads.
Wiley has ground 30 miles of road into gravel in the last three years on the theory that it's better to have a dirty car than a ride busted by innumerable potholes. He says many more paved roads in this eastern Indiana locale could be returned to the earth if he doesn't get more funding in the state budget Indiana lawmakers are debating.
"My little world of 802 miles of road is a handful. It's embarrassing. It's frustrating. And I don't have a solution. ... I mean, there needs to be more money spent on roads," he said.
It's those broken roads that have formed the single largest pothole in freshman Indiana Gov. Mike Pence's legislative "roadmap," a first-year agenda centered around a $500 million cut in the state's personal income tax. The cut would put about $156 in the pockets of a taxpayer earning $46,000, but its political ramifications could be much greater.
Pence needs a victory on a signature item of his campaign to establish himself as a strong executive and build his resume for a potential 2016 White House run. Governors being eyed for higher office are often judged on their performance in their respective statehouses and their ability to overcome opposition from both parties; Republican Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin survived a bloody fight with union members and teachers, while Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley of Maryland walked away from his seventh annual dance with the Legislature this year having raised the gas tax to pay for a multibillion-dollar transportation plan and repealed the state's death penalty.
For community officials like Wiley, passage of Pence's tax cut could represent a further erosion of funding to local governments, which was cut dramatically under former Gov. Mitch Daniels as he steered the state through the recession and built a surplus of $500 million.