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State Senate approves road funding bill minus tax hikes

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A short term road funding plan cleared a hurdle in the state Senate Tuesday. It’s the alternative to a House plan that called for a pair of tax hikes.

The road funding bill is now headed to a conference committee where key members of the House and Senate will try to reach a compromise. The plans from the two Houses are far apart at the moment.

The Senate proposal uses part of the state surplus and other sources to create a short term fix for road concerns.

It replaces the House version that includes hikes in the gas tax and the cigarette tax, a bill that was meant to be a long term fix.

Senate sponsor Sen. Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) says a long term fix will have to wait until next year.

“We plan to look first to existing revenues and other alternatives,” he said, “before we consider tax increases.”

Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Portage) led Democratic opposition to the bill.

“We think that there are things in here that are only a temporary fix,” she said, “and that we are kicking the can down the road again.”

The vote was 39 to 11, and while the bill has no tax increases, it does include new fees for the owners of electric cars and hybrids. It’s a way to get them to pay their share of road money since other motorists are paying the gas tax.

The tax hikes are likely dead for the 2016 session even though they are technically still alive in the House.