Roads, Beer, Budget to Dominate Statehouse Final Week
INDIANAPOLIS - The Indiana General Assembly is ramping up in its the final week of the legislative session and the state budget, road funding and cold beer sales remain three of the top issues yet to be resolved. Network Indiana/WIBC Statehouse Bureau Chief Eric Berman tells Inside INdiana Business one of the major issues between the House and Senate involves earmarking an increase in the gasoline sales tax for roads.
Berman says once thing that is certain is there will be a 10-cent increase in the gasoline tax in addition to a $15 increase in vehicle registration fees and new fees on electric vehicles. However, he says the House wants to earmark all of the sales tax on gasoline for roads, something the Senate does not want.
"A portion of it, about a third of that, is earmarked for roads now. They want to earmark the whole thing. The Senate doesn't like that idea," said Berman. "That's money that currently is part of the general budget and so you open up a hole in the budget if you do that. The House proposed plugging that with cigarette taxes. The Senate doesn't like cigarette taxes any better than they like shifting the sales tax money in the first place. So you've got problems on both ends of that in trying to reconcile that."
The Senate version of House Bill 1002 passed earlier this month by a 34-13 vote. The House version passed in February. Berman says coming to a deal on road funding, as well as funding an extended statewide pre-kindergarten program, will have to be done before a two-year budget proposal is sent to the floor for a vote.
Additionally, Berman says the hold up on a bill that would fix what some call a loophole in the state's cold beer sales restrictions is two-fold. First, he says legislators are looking for a way to do as little harm as possible to businesses that already have licenses while preventing new locations from being authorized to sell cold beer for carryout. The other part is writing the law that does what they want it to do without any loopholes.
The General Assembly is not required to end the legislative session until April 29, however Berman says legislators are looking to wrap up a week early, largely due to the Fire Department Instructor's Conference, which takes place next week in downtown Indianapolis and could cause hotel issues for some legislators.