Republican Gov. Mike Pence proposed Tuesday a $1 billion boost in state highway funding over four years amid criticism he has faced over road conditions around Indiana.
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Republican Gov. Mike Pence proposed Tuesday a $1 billion boost in state highway funding over four years amid criticism he has faced over road conditions around Indiana.
Pence said he would seek legislative approval next year to dip into the state’s $2 billion reserves for up to $150 million a year in additional highway department appropriations.
A top Democrat responded that Pence’s proposal didn’t meet the scope of the state’s needs and failed to help cities and counties in maintaining local roads.
Democrats have persistently criticized Pence for underfunding highway maintenance, leaving the state with many roads and bridges in poor shape. The debate over highway conditions gained prominence this summer during a monthlong emergency closure of an Interstate 65 bridge near Lafayette.
Pence said he has supported increased road funding since he took office in 2013 and that drivers can see the spending in highway projects around the state.
”Some of the suggestions and opinions that have been expressed about infrastructure in the state of Indiana are just political nonsense,’ Pence said.
Pence said the added spending on roads and bridges could be accomplished without raising taxes, although his proposal would take about $240 million from the state reserves that he has highlighted as a top achievement and have the state borrow an additional $240 million.
The governor’s plan would direct the first additional money to highway projects in mid-2016, with about $490 million the first year and between $150 million and $200 million annually during the following three years. That compares to $200 million a year increases in highway funding that the Republican-dominated Legislature included in the 2013-15 budget.
Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, said Pence’s proposal doesn’t address the state’s immediate highway needs.
”His proposal is a drop in the bucket when you consider Indiana’s infrastructure situation as a whole,’ Lanane said. ”Even now, the governor makes what he calls a `significant’ infrastructure investment with traditional construction season winding down and no new dollars available until July 2016. ”