Niki Kelly, writing for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, reported last week that the toll road money is almost gone. You might recall that, back in 2006, instead of proposing to raise the tolls ourselves, pay off the bonds, and owning the Indiana Toll Road outright, Gov. Daniels proposed a long term lease to a private consortium. (Mixing incompetence with pandering, the Democrats attacked the fact that the consortium was a foreign operation, sort of missing the point about what made this a questionable idea.)
I had a brother at Khe Sahn
Fighting off the Viet Cong
They’re still there, he’s all gone
The $3.8 billion payout for the lease was, according to Aaron Renn, a good trade; he knows more than I do about such things, so I’ll trust him on the price. But, the fact remains that the tolls remain much higher than they were, and we’ve lost control of the asset for another seven decades. And, according to Nikki Kelly, the money is mostly gone.
As of Jan. 1, the state had $1.7 billion still in the Major Moves Construction Fund.
But Will Wingfield, spokesman for INDOT, said several major projects are being awarded this year and next – obligating most of the money to be paid when construction is done in the next two years.
That means all the money should be spoken for at the end of June 2013.
That leaves two main questions: 1) Will the return on those projects be great enough to justify the higher tolls on the motorists of Northern Indiana for the next seventy years; and 2) What adjustments (higher taxes or more road deterioration) will be made now that the asset has been sold and the money’s all gone?
John Gregg is apparently favoring the deterioration option; advocating for elimination of the gas tax. Gregg says he’d pay for the shortfall by reducing government inefficiency elsewhere. But, I think by this time most people recognize “reduce government waste” as a candidate’s dodge; meaning they don’t want to alienate potential voters by saying they’d have to raise taxes elsewhere or by specifying cuts to a particular program which someone inevitably regards as valuable.
You can see a an overview of the distribution from gas tax revenues here (pdf – p.26), but a lot of it goes to maintain roads and highways. It’s easy for me to criticize John Gregg, because I expect him to be at least somewhat responsible about governing. I find myself being less disappointed in Mike Pence because I don’t even expect real solutions for governing from him – just vague conservative slogans and an indifference to whether application of those slogans actually improves the lives of Hoosiers.
At any rate, it looks like the roads are likely to get bumpier in Indiana in the near future.