Indiana Gov. Mike Pence may see the 5 percent income tax cut delivered last week by the General Assembly as a “great victory” for Hoosiers, but for Matt Greller and the local governments he represents, it was the $215 million in new road repair money that was the real win of the 2013 session.
Greller, head of the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns, is witness to what a decade of dwindling highway dollars from the state to local communities has meant.
As a boy growing up in Brown County he remembers when the gravel road in front of his family’s home was paved for the first time.
“It was an event,” Greller said. “We all out came to watch.”
Now that road has been turned mostly back to gravel because the county has lacked the money to pay for repairs.
A few weeks ago, while Indiana’s first-term governor was traveling the state boasting of the state’s surplus and promoting his grand vision of a 10 percent tax cut as an economic stimulator, the Brown County Commissioners were finalizing details of a $2 million loan they’ve taken out to patch up miles of crumbling roads.
It’s a story that could be told in communities across the state that have miles of roads gone to pot. In the years between 2000 and 2010, the major sources of road repair money collected by the state and doled out to local governments dropped by about $100 million.
Evidence of the lack of investment in local infrastructure can be seen on back roads and main roads in almost every county in Indiana. In 2009, studies done by Purdue University’s Local Technical Assistance Center and by the American Society of Civil Engineers estimated it would take more $800 million to fix just half of all county paved roads in Indiana that are badly need of repair.