Sparks fly over tax increase as Indiana session begins

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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The 2017 Indiana legislative session is off to a hot start as lawmakers debate ways to raise funds for road improvements.

After an afternoon pray service, the Senate started business. Since swearing-in ceremonies took place in November, legislators started to move bills from the floor to committees.

Fifteen minutes after starting, the Senate adjourned. That’s when lawmakers didn’t mince words.

Indiana legislative session begins

“This will probably be the most tax increasing session I’ve ever been involved in,” Indiana Senate Minority Floor Leader Tim Lanane said.

“It’s just ironic some of these same voices that are criticizing a tax now were the ones who were promoting it last year. I think people see through that,” Indiana Senate Majority Floor Leader Brandt Hershman said.

The issue: improving roads. Republicans say with gas tax revenues staying flat, they have no choice if they want to make improvements.

“Our goal is to be responsible, to ask people for as little of their money as possible,” State Sen. Hershman said. “To do something in a fair fashion, and to make sure that they see results,” Hershman continued.

Senate Democrats agree taxes should pay for roads, but they aren’t sold on how Republicans want to do it. “We’re continuing to give tax breaks to corporations and businesses,” State Sen. Lanane continued, “How are they going to explain that when you and I go to the pump, and pay more at the pump?”

Improving roads isn’t the only goal for the senate. Republicans want to focus on workforce readiness and the drug abuse crisis.

Democrats are looking at early childhood education, election reform, wages and equality. It may have gotten off to a hot start, but in any case, lawmakers are glad to be back.

Indiana legislative session begins

“I don’t think it’s going to be wild, and I don’t think it’s going to be any longer than normal,” State Rep. Randy Frye said. “I think we’re going to get our budget done. I’m positive that we’ll get it done in time.”

State senators will return Wednesday. House members will get started Wednesday. House Speaker Brian Bosma will lay out his plan Wednesday morning. Democratic leaders will lay out theirs Wednesday afternoon.

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