The Indiana County Commissioners (ICC) Association, in partnership with several other local government stakeholders, provided testimony to the Indiana General Assembly’s Funding Indiana’s Roads for a Stronger, Safer Tomorrow (FIRSST) Task Force at its Nov. 15 meeting.
Public testimony was taken as the Task Force works to identify barriers to sustainable state and local infrastructure funding and crafts solutions for improving the current funding mechanism.
“As state lawmakers begin this important discussion around infrastructure funding, we know, as an association of local government officials, that we need to be at the table sharing our uniquely valuable perspectives,” said ICC President and Hamilton County Commissioner Mark Heirbrandt. “As the gas tax becomes a less reliable revenue source for the state and economic challenges impact counties’ abilities to maintain, improve, and grow their local infrastructure networks, county commissioners across Indiana are closely watching the outcomes of this Task Force’s work.”
The FIRSST Task Force was created in 2016 to analyze state and local infrastructure conditions and funding mechanisms in order to identify shortfalls and opportunities for improvements. In 2017, the Indiana General Assembly adopted the recommendations of the Task Force, an overhaul of state and local infrastructure funding, in House Bill 1002. Since then, however, additional factors impacting infrastructure revenue created in HB 1002—such as record inflation, workforce shortages, enhanced vehicle mileage efficiency, and increased electric vehicle use—has led to concerns from state and local leaders that the current funding mechanism will not keep pace with the needs of the state’s comprehensive infrastructure network.
Therefore, the FIRSST Task Force reconvened for the first time since 2017 this year on Sept. 28 to hear from a variety of stakeholders, including the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), regarding barriers to sustainably funding Indiana’s infrastructure assets. Montgomery County Commissioner John Frey, who serves on the FIRSST Task Force, provided comments to the Task Force at the September meeting, expressing his anticipation to work with his fellow members to find meaningful solutions.
“Personally, I am excited to share specific road and bridge needs at the local level, particularly highlighting the unique challenges faced by Indiana counties, and developing a long-term funding plan that will secure the future of Indiana's local infrastructure,” Frey stated. “As long as I serve as a member of this Task Force, my top priority will be ensuring that Indiana communities remain safe, prosperous, and connected as a result of our efforts.”
Stephanie Yager, ICC’s Executive Director, is urging lawmakers and stakeholders to consider the needs of local units of governments when crafting solutions. “The key takeaway from our testimony today is that Indiana’s county officials have been responsible stewards of infrastructure investment dollars and that all Hoosiers will benefit from continued investments to maintain, improve, and grow local infrastructure networks,” Yager stated. “All trips begin and end on local roads, and with profound impacts on Hoosiers’ safety and quality of life, we have a responsibility to ensure that funding solutions will provide reliable support for local roads and bridges.”
The Task Force is expected to meet several times through 2024 to craft legislative proposals for consideration in the 2025 Budget Session. ICC will be closely monitoring the Task Force’s discussions in anticipation of legislative recommendations and will continue advocating for Hoosier counties throughout the process.
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