Cherry: Major actions taken this legislative session

Posted by: Samantha Holifield  | Friday, April 28, 2017 2:35 pm

We recently concluded all business for this legislative session and adjourned Sine Die. The House of Representatives started the session with 681 bills filed and ended with 127 House Enrolled Acts. Two of the biggest bills this session were the state’s biennial budget and our long-term road funding plan. Both were discussed up until the final minutes of the legislative session.

As vice chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means, I spent a lot of time working on the new biennial budget. Hoosiers can be proud; it promotes fiscal responsibility and will maintain our state’s healthy reserves and AAA credit rating with all three major credit rating agencies. The General Assembly increased funding for K-12 education by $345 million over the next two years. K-12 and higher education account for nearly two-thirds of the state’s general fund, keeping young Hoosiers as Indiana’s top priority. 

The House Republican long-term road funding plan was also passed this session. Roads are indispensable to our daily lives and our economy, and right now, Indiana roads are in need of a lot of repair. If we had not acted this year, Indiana’s roads and bridges would be facing on average a $1.2 billion annual funding shortfall over the next 20 years. Our plan addressed this in a comprehensive and sustainable manner with immediate and ongoing funding increases for state and local roadways. Starting in July, state road funding will see a $357 million increase, while local road funding will receive an additional $260 million. A user-fee approach will be implemented so that those who use the roads, pay for the roads. The user fee on gasoline, special fuel and the motor carrier surcharge taxes will each be increased by 10 cents. While it was not an easy decision to raise these fees, they have lost their buying power over the years due to inflation. The funds generated by our current fuel tax structure cannot keep up with our transportation infrastructure demands. The fee on gas hasn’t been changed since 2003, while the fees on diesel and motor carrier surcharge haven’t been adjusted for inflation since 1988.

We also developed specific funding mechanisms for local road projects. A $15 annual statewide infrastructure improvement fee will be placed on all vehicles registered in Indiana. Since hybrids and electric vehicles use the roads, but pay little to nothing in fuel taxes, the fees on these vehicles will be $50 and $150, respectively. All of the money collected by these fees will go to the Community Crossings Matching Grant Fund. This fund doubles, and in some cases triples, local government spending on road and bridge repairs, bringing improvements to smaller cities, towns and counties.

Another bill I worked on this session will help local RV industries and dealerships be more competitive and attract out-of-state consumers. Almost 84 percent of all RVs produced in North America are made in Indiana, but many are purchased elsewhere. Currently, RV purchasers in 40 states are exempt from Indiana sales tax because a similar exemption is extended from those states to Indiana residents. There are nine states, though, that do not have a reciprocal sales tax exemption agreement with Indiana. Purchasers from these non-exempt states sometimes find it more advantageous to buy their RVs in places with a lower sales tax rate than Indiana, resulting in a loss of sales in Indiana. Under Senate Enrolled Act 172, the sales tax for nonresidents will be adjusted to the state in which they will ultimately register the vehicle, giving purchasers more reason to buy from Indiana and helping dealers in our communities.

All three of these bills have been signed by Gov. Holcomb and will go into effect July 1. Many of my other pieces of legislation were incorporated in a bill in some way.

Even though the session has ended, please continue to contact me with any questions or concerns that may come up. My office can be reached at h53@iga.in.gov or 317-232-9651.

-30-

Rep. Cherry represents House District 53, which

includes portions of Hancock and Madison counties.

He serves as Vice Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

A high-resolution photo of Cherry can be downloaded by clicking here.