Pharos-Tribune

April 17, 2013

GUTWEIN: Keeping Ind. as a crossroads

StateBy Rep. Douglas Gutwein
Guest Columnist

— As I meet with my constituents across my district, I spend a considerable amount of time on the road. Having grown up in Northwest Indiana, I know the conditions they are in like the back on my hand and understand that they are overdue for repair.

Hoosiers and visitors alike rely upon our transportation infrastructure. It allows shipments to reach factories on time, employees to arrive at work safely and ensures that my family’s Gutwein popcorn finds its way to hungry Hoosiers. Playing a substantial role in every Hoosier’s life, our local roads and highways require a tremendous amount of funding to restore and maintain them.

It is said that “roads lead to jobs,” and I believe Indiana’s economic well-being rests on the condition of our transportation system. Many of our recent jobs announcements, like Chrysler expanding in Kokomo, are attributed to the strength of our infrastructure. Employers consider the access to different modes of transportation in moving goods and services as a top priority. Indiana has done an excellent job attracting companies because of its transportation system and geographical location to other major markets. We are the Crossroads of America, and we need to build on this reputation by continuing to invest in our roads and bridges.

The House has set one of its priorities in repairing and constructing our local and state roads and bridges. This is evident in House Bill 1001, the state’s budget for 2014-15. All under the umbrella of conservative, fiscal management and living within our means, the budget protects taxpayers, restores funding for education and strengthens our state’s infrastructure. The House Ways and Means team has put in countless hours of work hearing public testimony in an effort to craft an honestly balanced budget proposal.

Members of Ways and Means discovered a way to open up $140 million annually for road repair and maintenance. This was done by removing “off-the-top” expenses from the Motor Vehicle Highway Account (MVHA), which funds INDOT projects. As prices for gas continue to rise and more fuel-efficient cars are made, people are spending less time at the pump. When this occurs, Indiana’s gas tax revenue, which assists in funding the MVHA, has steadily declined.

To counter this, the House’s budget will dedicate 20 percent of the state gas tax to the MVHA, resulting in an estimated $110 million funding increase. These two concepts permanently increase road and bridge funding by $250 million annually which will assist in the upkeep of our transportation infrastructure.

The House’s budget funds Hoosier priorities: education, transportation and public safety. I support these priorities as we seek to improve the livelihood of all Hoosiers.

State Rep. Douglas Gutwein is a Republican serving House District 16, which consists of large portions of Newton, Jasper and Pulaski counties and a small section of Starke County in northwestern Indiana.