Budget Session Begins at Statehouse

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Republicans maintained super-majorities in both chambers in the November election. Republicans maintained super-majorities in both chambers in the November election.

Both parties are coming to the Indiana Statehouse for the 2017 legislative session with a focus on education and infrastructure. Senator Jim Merritt (R-31), who serves as majority caucus chair, says user fees will be at "the head of the class" when it comes to funding infrastructure improvements. He says he expects a "results-oriented" session when it comes to passing a budget. In addition to infrastructure and education spending, Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane (D-25) says he would like to see legislators "modernize" the state's civil rights protections to include the LGBT community.

Legislators passed a short-term funding plan last year, with plans for a more comprehensive strategy this year. Lawmakers formed a task force to form recommendations for generating revenue to fund the projects, which released its findings last month. They include raising the gas tax and indexing it for inflation and creating road usage fees for alternative fuel and electric vehicles which often pay little or no fuel tax.

Merritt says, while building new roads and highways is important, maintaining them is also key to economic growth. He tells Inside INdiana Business that if the state wants to continue growing economically and in population, it must support quality infrastructure that will make people want to move to Indiana.

Network Indiana/WIBC Statehouse Bureau Chief Eric Berman has told Inside INdiana Business he doesn't expect measures involving social issues to get much traction this year. He says after Republicans "got burned once" on the debate and backlash over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, they are not likely to take up similar debates. Governor-elect Eric Holcomb has already said he does not expect a proposal to expand civil rights protections to pass through the legislature.

The Indiana Senate begins its work with a session this afternoon. The House convenes Wednesday afternoon. Republicans maintained super-majorities in both chambers in the November election.

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