Chamber: Roads Bill Remains Priority at Statehouse

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March 13 is the final day for both the House and Senate. March 13 is the final day for both the House and Senate.

As the second half of the 2016 Indiana General Assembly begins, the state's largest business advocacy group says a long-term road funding plan remains its number one priority. Currently, three bills remain in play, including House Bill 1001, which calls for a tax increase. Indiana Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Brinegar says Indiana businesses support sustainable solutions to the critical issue. "If we don't enact long-term funding, we'll be back here having the same conversation next year," said Brinegar. "And we will continue to fall short on our maintenance funding, let alone our funding for new roads and expansion."

In his January State of the State Address, Governor Mike Pence called for more money to address the state's infrastructure needs, but insisted it be done without a tax increase. "I think when you have money in the bank and the best credit rating in America, the last place you should look to pay for roads and bridges is the wallets and pocketbooks of hardworking Hoosiers," said Pence.

Brinegar is optimistic a solution can be found.

"We hope that in the end, they merge the ideas and that we have both the short term big infusion as well as long-term funding," said Brinegar.

In an interview on Inside INdiana Business Television, Brinegar also commented on the failure of Senate Bill 344, a measure extending civil rights protections for LGBT Hoosiers. "For me, it was one of the most exasperating weeks of my entire career," said Brinegar.

In November, the Chamber's more than 100-member board of directors voted "overwhelmingly" to support an expansion of Indiana's civil rights law to include protection for sexual orientation and gender identity.

Brinegar said it remains to be seen if legislative inaction on the hot button issue will impact the state's convention and tourism industry or economic development efforts.

"What is harder to track is talented individuals perhaps choosing to not come to Indiana, because they don't perceive us as a welcoming place."

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