Bosma: The Grownup in the Room

Well, the usual suspects are all ganging up on Brian Bosma, the Speaker of the Indiana House, who has had the temerity to suggest that, if we want roads we can drive on, we probably need to pay for them.

As the Indianapolis Star reported

Hoosiers could pay more for gas and cigarettes under a road funding proposal being crafted by Indiana House Republican leaders.

The proposal also would provide for a study about turning I-65 and I-70 into toll roads.

House Speaker Brian Bosma provided some details about the proposal during a legislative conference Downtown on Wednesday. The funding plan would index the state’s fuel tax to inflation and gradually shift all of the 7 percent sales tax on gasoline to the motor vehicle highway fund, which is used for state and local road projects.

Bosma said the plan would create a sustainable, long-term solution for maintaining Indiana’s roads and bridges, but he acknowledged that some would consider it a tax increase.

Now, it’s perfectly reasonable to argue for alternative ways to raise the necessary revenues, or to ask for assurances that funds raised will be prudently spent– but those aren’t the arguments being mounted by Bosma’s opponents. They are opposed to anything that looks remotely like a tax. No matter what.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, said the proposed tax adjustments would be a tough sell in the legislature, where many Republicans have pledged never to increase taxes.

This impasse is a stark reminder that there are two kinds of Republican in Indiana (as elsewhere): those interested in actually governing, and those (like our embarrassing Governor) interested only in pulling down a public paycheck for posturing and pontificating. And there are more of the latter than the former.

News flash, ideologues: there is no free lunch. There is no way to provide necessary public services, no way to maintain critical public infrastructure, without adequate funds. Taxes are “user fees”–they are the price we pay for civilization, our social “membership dues.”

Grownups understand that.


  1. Increasing the gas tax is by far the most reasonable and appropriate way to resolve Indiana’s highway infrastructure needs, and doing so with funds generated from their use should be considered prudent government.
    But the Tea Party/Republicans will not have it again proving their real mission is to destroy all government and sell off the pieces to oligarchs.

  2. Raising, or even having, the gas tax spreads the tab among millions of people so once again the handful of oligarchs get to avoid paying their fair share. Do corporations write off this type of tax as business expense? Again, it would be passed on to millions of people through price hikes. Is there any way for the low and middle to get a break?
    See how we all contribute to the government program for growth of income for the rich?

  3. Interesting but…has the cost of construction of toll booths and lane restrictions, including the time frames rerouting traffic to accomplish the construction been considered plus the slowdown to pay tolls? For daily interstate users around Indianapolis and Indiana this could put many drivers on lesser traveled roads, increasing the traffic patterns and wear on road surfaces. Florida has numerous toll roads, irritating and costly plus the necessity to keep correct change amounts at-the-ready and the awareness of which lane to get in if you don’t have correct change.

    Taxes are “user fees” even to those of us who do not use what we are paying for. Before making any drastic changes such as toll roads; we need “tax adjustments” NOW to repair miles of current roads and streets in hazardous condition and repair/renovate those collapsing bridges…all of which will take years to accomplish as they have been allowed to deteriorate for decades? Where is that money going at this time…those of us who drive regularly see the lack of maintenance on local streets throughout Marion County and must deal with the in-and-out of traffic bike lanes. If the officials making these decisions don’t understand the difference between “tax adjustments” and “tax increases”, they should not be allowed to make decisions regarding this issue.

  4. Sheila: Tell this to the obscenely rich getting exponentially richer :

    ‘News flash, ideologues (read oligarchs): there is no free lunch. There is no way to provide necessary public services, no way to maintain critical public infrastructure, without adequate funds. Taxes are “user fees”–they are the price we pay for civilization, our social “membership dues.”’

    Accentuate the positive: maybe there IS a way. We know a few people are getting what is tantamount to “a free lunch” and telling us to “eat cake” when we cry “we have no bread”.

    We need the likes of Bernie Sanders.

  5. OMG raises valid issues regarding corporation’s “fair share” of taxes; I am seeing more and more Facebook posts requesting – or demanding – churches begin paying their “fair share” of taxes to maintain all infrastructure we pay for but they benefit by. Too many churches have become “corporate level institutions”; another tax-free loophole that needs to be plugged. Fewer and fewer churches are providing neighborhood outreach to aid poor areas surrounding them as neighborhoods deteriorate and to ease the increasing numbers applying for public assistance. The Indianapolis Catholic Archdiocese earlier this year shut down three churches; combining their congregations with three other churches who also have school facilities. The complain was made to these churches to receive additional congregants that they were not providing neighborhood outreach as required.

  6. “Pledging ” to not increase taxes? How about an “oath” to uphold the constitution, particularly equal protections to all. Oh, wait a minute. We already have that.

  7. I suppose the Luke Kenley plan for streets, roads and highways would be to place giant Detour signs around the State of Indiana. We could wait for the highways and roads to deteriorate back to the 19th century. That is the century some Republicans are most comfortable with. The sales tax on gasoline should never have been diverted elsewhere.

    When I took a trip a few months ago to Ohio on I-70 and returned on the same road. I knew I was back home in Indiana when the road condition was like driving on a wash board, and having to stay alert to pot holes.

  8. While gas prices have dropped, the taxes on gas have not. The legislature should use the taxes for what they were meant for. The legislature is proposing a toll…does that mean they will rescind the gas taxes or simply add more financial burden to tax payers. I remember when a “user’ tax was levied to expand the convention center and build the Hoosier Dome…when it came time to retire that tax it was refinanced so the revenue stream wouldn’t stop…and another “user” tax was levied to pay for additional facilities…when will somebody stand up and protect the taxpayer?

  9. Unless my aging memory fails me…profits from the Indiana lottery were to go into highway maintenance and schools. Anyone know where it actually goes?

    Regarding toll roads; we have one in northern Indiana, that hasn’t been working so well, has it?

  10. I’m happy to hear reports that someone in government is taking up the unpopular position of necessary payment and road repair.

    I think comments here raise good issue with the burden of tax- are proposals yet another loophole for the wealthy? Maybe, maybe not, but the truth is the crunch of payment has to come from somewhere. Our state, local and national governments need to stop giving free passes to all sectors. No one wants to pay for anything, and that cannot continue indefinitely. Unfortunately, I worry that the burden of payment for so many things will fall to future generations. It makes me angry. Every recent generation has mismanaged or ignored resources detrimentally.

    Personally, I think the toll road plan is a step in the right direction, if not a panacea. Other states have toll roads and what is their outcome? It only makes sense to have toll posts when we’re in Indiana dubbed “the crossroads of the nation”.

  11. Conservatives of course don’t believe in investing, only harvesting. Not planting, only consuming. Not the future only the past.

    It turns out that despite their “thinking” the future is going to come anyway.

    Even to Indiana? Who knew?

    Ronnie told us that (Republican) governments have no solutions; only offer problems. How prescient of him.

    So now we have a few decades of put off investment staring us in the face and while we were creating those problems, other problems piled on like fossil fuels going obsolete on us.

    It’s going to take the best problem solvers we have now. They are going to have to turn away from the pretend political problems like Ebola and Benghazi and gays and Obama and go after the real ones.

    And the path to solutions the GOP offers? Trump.

    Sorry kids. The Goofiest Generation couldn’t pass the test.

  12. Here’s today’s economics lesson. You have your income over here and your expenses over there. Some of them expenses are for tomorrow. If you’re lucky your income is sufficiently greater than your expenses to save for economic threats and opportunities.

    Some expenses are from your stores, some are from your government, because the stuff you need comes from both suppliers. Like war for instance. You know that war you asked for for Christmas? Government supplied. It doesn’t matter who gets your dollar, it’s just as gone either way.

    Business has arranged income and expenses such that savings are possible only for the team that calls itself the “makers” and impossible for the other team called the “takers”. Drive through any city and you can see where each team lives.

    So the “makers” have orchestrated large income vs expenses for themselves, none for the competition. That means that the wealth (savings) all belongs to them now.

    So the monumental savings of “makers” owes their existence to two sources. Insufficient payments to government and taking over the “taker’s” savings.

    That problem demands fixing now.

    Government is going to have to dip into savings. Savings have all been scooped up by the “makers”.

    They might not be happy now with the situation that they created.

  13. Money for infrastructure is vital. I’m just hoping that whatever money is raised for roads actually goes for roads and isn’t siphoned off some time later for the legislators’ pet projects. It’s happened before. Remember Mayor Peterson’s unpopular tax to pay for more police officers? When running for office Ballard was vociferously against it but didn’t repeal the tax once elected. He used the money for other things.

  14. The oldest and best kept road in America, the Pennsylvania TPike has always been toll. All major highways in the East are pay to go. As well as all major bridges, the BB bring one of the first. This nation was built on toll way pikes, including Michigan Road. How would there be a GG, GWB, Manhattan or Williamsburg without tolls? That’s the reason Indy hasn’t spanned our little creeks in years and has a traffic pattern nightmare due to lack of bridges. How many spans are on Fall Creek/White River? Look at Chicago and tell me about tolls.

    How, all of a sudden is this a bad idea? Toll booths, with I Pass, increase, not impede traffic flow. I have always wondered why trucks and cars can gas up in Ohio and traverse Indiana to Illinois and not spend a dime. Backward thinking.

  15. I strongly disagree with toll roads. The fees become another burden on those who can least afford to pay but have to use the roads. If I-65 were a toll road, it would be an intolerable burden for the hundreds (or thousands?) of people who toil in the massive Amazon warehouse in Whitestown. On the good side, big firms, whose trucks tear up the roads, have to contribute a fairer share via tolls. And everyone one uses roads, whether you drive or not — what you buy in stores or online has to get there somehow. But as someone noted near the beginning of this discussion, tolls will push people off the highways and burden local streets.

  16. Is what we’re witnessing today the real trickle down economics? As we’ve stated many times before in this forum, there’s nothing trickling down to the middle class or lower classes. Looks like it works the same w taxes. Now all that’s left is for the Big Money to instruct the state legislature to improve those roads by raising taxes on everyone else but them.

  17. I think that it’s a mistake to think that toll roads change the equation much about who pays for them. We all do whether they’re toll or taxed, whether they’re fuel taxed or income taxed or sales taxed. They are a general infrastructure cost and both the cost and benefit accrue to all. (Much more benefit than cost BTW.)

    The whole issue is a political smoke screen.

    The emergence of transponder technology has made tolls less onerous but also eliminated the benefit of many jobs.

    All in all my bottom line is fix the damn roads and save political jawing for important issues.

  18. An example:


    “It’s not often that environmentalists and Republican leadership in Congress agree, but they do on this one, troubling issue.”
    “Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) said Monday that lifting the oil export ban, which was included in the $1.1 trillion omnibus bill, “is like having 100 Keystone pipelines.””
    “Of course, Ryan meant that as a good thing. Environmentalists, meanwhile, spent years campaigning against the Keystone pipeline, which would have brought oil from the Canadian tar sands to refineries near the Gulf of Mexico. Unlike the oil export ban repeal, the Keystone proposal finally died this fall.”
    “”We hope the speaker is not bragging about making the climate worse,” Athan Manuel, director of the lands protection program, Sierra Club, told ThinkProgress. “Both of those things are bad news for the climate, bad news for people who care about the environment.””
    “By exposing producers to the global economy, lifting the oil export ban is expected to drive investment in domestic oil extraction, particularly in the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota. That, in turn, will increase carbon emissions. It will also continue the devastation some in North Dakota are seeing from widespread flaring, increased truck traffic, and water overuse and pollution.”

    Fixing roads creates jobs and helps the economy and has no downside.

    Exporting fossil fuels creates jobs and helps the economy but at the expense of the future.

    The two things are not equal. You would think that everybody would be capable of understanding that.

  19. Now I see the Toll Road Plan. Toll Roads on the Interstates and then drum roll please. We will need to privatize them, because they need to be run as a business. There will be plenty of tax dollars spent on lawyers, commissions and expense charges for the financial institutions. Some no work, phony LLC’s will be set up, which will employ selected insiders. Tax payers will probably be stuck with the retro fit from a a free highway to a Toll Road.

  20. In another ten years or so, they’re going to need a new tax to fund roads anyway, once electric cars appear in mass.

  21. So let’s just take more revenue from Northwest Indiana to pay for the rest of the state. We already have Toll Roads here. Why not make I-74 a toll road?
    Actually, why not also tax liquor and recreational vehicles to pay for this?

  22. Our gas price is ridiculously low. Gas guzzling SUV’s are being sold again because of the low price. Our roads and bridges need drastic attention. We need to tax gas in order maintain what we all expect to be safe. Some of the pot holes the last two winters were the worst I have ever seen. We do a lot of driving and we have seen some disreputable bridges that I was quite frankly afraid to cross. Lets tax our fuel and increase the DOT coffers.

  23. Why not just tax all those tax all those not for profits downtown sucking the coffers dry and paying big salaries. Anyone paying any attention to IV Tech as an example?

  24. Marie; have you seen any information regarding the electric power bills for those cars? Or the cost for the cars and the hookup to recharge? Currently, that is the only reasonable utility bill in this city.

  25. JoAnn

    If electricity costs $0.11 per kWh and the vehicle consumes 34 kWh to travel 100 miles, the cost per mile is about $0.04. If electricity costs $0.11 per kilowatt-hour, charging an all-electric vehicle with a 70-mile range (assuming a fully depleted 24 kWh battery) will cost about $2.64 to reach a full charge.

  26. Republicans have involved themselves in the Grover Norquist “never raise taxes” trap at the federal level, and I am not surprised to see that Indiana’s right wing politicians have followed that example, even with an infrastructure in ruins. Romans called taxes “tribute” and demanded payment of tribute from their occupied territories, or else. Nowadays the word taxes is a four letter word. Things change.

    One of my favorite all-time economists, John Maynard Keynes, once said: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?” With a Hoosier infrastructure headed south (including roads, streets and, dangerously, bridges, as well as public buildings), haven’t “the facts changed” sufficiently to trigger demand for an increase in taxes in some form (gas, corporate, income, whatever) to pay for repair and renewal of the public’s “furniture?” Can’t rational citizens understand that you don’t have to sell your furniture into the slavery of corporate privatization (toll roads, user fees etc.) but that you can raise taxes to keep public ownership intact (perhaps by increased taxes on corporations, who have been on the gravy train long enough)? Is that so hard to understand?

    Repair and renewal of the public’s fixed assets will not come about as a result of a rain of manna from heaven; nor will adequate resources fall from the skies to fund education and other important initiatives the state is neglecting. It takes money, and our politicians do us no favors when they pretend otherwise. The state is vested with the power to tax, and it’s about time they used it. Beware of the alternative, i.e., corporations’ buying up public assets for a song and then charging the public for use of what was once owned by the public now assessed for their use. Tax increases – unpopular medicine? So is Milk of Magnesia, but essential for
    health. It’s a real world, one uninhabited by Grover Norquist.

    In the final analysis, a tax increase is good or bad depending upon what you spend the money for, and I say that the state of the state’s furniture calls for a tax increase, that the state of repair of such infrastructure justifies it, and note that, parenthetically, such repair will in itself increase employment and increased revenues to the state’s treasury as well. As thus seen and for such dedicated purpose, raising taxes for public investment in the public’s assets is a positive for all Hoosiers.

  27. Investing in our state’s (and Nation’s) infrastructure is essential. Too many years have passed since we have decided to take a real critical look at what is needed and how to pay for it through future revenues. Indexing of gasoline taxes is just one remedy and to many it is just a band aid on a large wound. Increasing liquor taxes should be part of the mix along with a permanent assignment of all the gasoline taxes collected. This dedicated stream of resources could be leveraged through bonding and toll revenues.

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