Thursday, June 14, 2018

Toll Roads Appear on Horizon Thanks to Indiana General Assembly

During the 2017 Indiana General Assembly, our legislators increased the gas tax by 10 cents a gallon.  While I was concerned about such an increase, particularly because the gas tax is not dedicated 100% to road improvements, my bigger concern was a provision in the bill which bestowed upon the Governor the unilateral authority to impose tolls on Indiana interstates.  

I loathe toll roads.  Tolling limited access roads like interstates divert large volumes of traffic to non-
tolled, local roads not capable of handling the additional vehicles.   Those cars end up in neighborhoods where people work and play.  Their safety is endangered.   Home values decrease as more cars speed by residents' front doors.

There is one thing though I hate more than toll roads.  I utterly despise when legislative bodies abdicate their responsibility by giving the executive what should be legislative power, particularly when it is a blank check to raise my taxes (yes, tolls are a tax).  Undoubtedly Republican legislators who control the legislature were thinking they  could escape responsibility for raising taxes in the future by giving Governor Holcomb the power to impose tolls, a move that would be highly unpopular with voters.  Plus, their thinking is that since the Governor is a Republican, he can be trusted  to handle the tolling authority in a responsible, i.e. conservative, way. 

For the sake of taxpayers, let's hope so.   From an Indianapolis Star article from Monday:
A strategic plan that could clear the way for Indiana to add tolls to its interstate highways, including inside the I-465 loop in Indianapolis, is being developed by a state contractor.
The state just signed a $9.6 million contract with HNTB Indiana Inc. to study the impact of tolling and provide project planning if the state chooses to move forward with tolling
The administration of Gov. Eric Holcomb is required to study tolling under the road-funding plan lawmakers passed in 2017 but hasn't officially decided to impose the fees on motorists. 
Under the law, Holcomb also is permitted to draft a strategic plan "if the governor determines that tolling is the best means of achieving major interstate system improvements in Indiana." 
Delegates to the 1850 Indiana Constitution Convention purposefully gave the Indiana General Assembly the power to check the power of governor.  That is not done when the legislature bestows upon the Governor what is essentially legislative power.  It is particularly irresponsible when the legislature gives the governor the unfettered authority to raise taxes.  If tolls happen in Indiana, which looks very likely, let's not forget to blame the legislators who made those new taxes possible.

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