Indiana Chamber Communications VP Tom Schuman explains why streamlining the tax code and reforming entitlement spending will create a simpler and fairer system for American workers and businesses. The U.S. Congress’ Super Committee should work to make this happen.
The term “donor” usually refers to a person who bestows something voluntarily – a vital organ to a person in need or blood to a blood bank; even someone offering money to an organization without expecting anything in return is considered a donor.
But, Indiana’s title as a financial “donor state” in the federal transportation system has never been voluntary. (States that put more money into the federal transportation program than they receive out of it are considered donor states.) A total of 28 states have the moniker, and Indiana receives only 92 cents for every dollar given to the federal system.
To combat this inequity, Indiana Republican Dan Coats has joined with several other senators from around the nation in introducing the State Transportation Flexibility Act, legislation that would allow states to opt out of federal highway programs. The act gives states the flexibility to manage and spend the gas tax revenue collected inside each state on transportation projects without federal mandates or restrictions.
The federal gas tax is the biggest revenue generator for the federal highway trust fund. With more fuel efficient vehicles and people driving less on average, the gas tax has been pushed into a steady decline and the trust fund has been bailed out several times.
“For too long, Indiana has been a donor state and sent more gas tax dollars to Washington than it has received back,” Coats says in a press release. “This isn’t fair to Hoosier taxpayers, which is why I support the State Highway Flexibility Act. Hoosiers know our state’s transportation needs better than bureaucrats in Washington, and Indiana should be able to control its own resources.”
States that choose to opt out would have to continue to maintain the Interstate system in accordance with its current program, but all gas tax revenue gained inside its borders would be used at the state’s discretion on transportation projects without federal interference.
“Anytime you can eliminate a layer of federal bureaucracy from the state’s ability to govern, it is a good thing,” adds Sen. David Vitter (R-Louisiana) in the release. “The states know their transportation needs better than Congress, so let’s put them in the driver’s seat to manage their own gas tax.”
In 2009, Alaska received $3.28 for every dollar it put into the federal fund, the District of Columbia received $5.04 for every dollar and Montana, North Dakota, Rhode Island and Vermont had returns of greater than 200% that same year.
For more information on the federal highway transportation fund and the challenges Indiana faces with the current transportation funding system, check out the story "Stuck in Neutral" in the May/June 2011 edition of BizVoice®.
It’s endorsement season — and the Indiana Chamber Congressional Action Committee (ICCAC, the Indiana Chamber’s non-partisan federal political action program) today endorsed Dan Coats for the U.S. Senate seat in this year’s election.
Coats says he has talked to hundreds of struggling Hoosier business owners who are fed up with higher taxes, more regulations and the ambiguity of what is yet to come.
"They are asking for checks and balances against the one-party control in Washington and this cloud of uncertainty," says Coats, who previously served in the Senate from 1990-1998. "It’s all about creating jobs and stimulating the economy. Those are the keys to our campaign."
The former senator added that every effort should be made to repeal the health care reform measure that, he notes, imposes 19 new taxes. If that proves not possible, "sensible corrections" need to be pursued.
Coats, running against current 8th District Congressman Brad Ellsworth, had sharp words for Congress and its decision to head back to the campaign trail without addressing the tax cuts that are scheduled to expire at year’s end.
"That was totally irresponsible." The uncertainty that is stopping company investments and job expansions is "now extended two more months. It has frozen businesses in place because they don’t know what their tax situation will be."
Chamber President Kevin Brinegar said that the volunteer business community leaders of the ICCAC want representatives in Washington who "focus on economic growth and job creation, not growing government, and Dan Coats clearly understands this."
Random observations and insights from Election Day thus far:
- Seems that the Secretary of State’s election division received as many inquiries about liquor stores being open (the law was, in a common sense move, changed earlier this year to allow alcohol sales while the polls were open) than problems at the polls. Good news there.
- A caller to The Times in Northwest Indiana bragged that he voted straight Republican today. The newspaper’s response, on its blog, was: Well, duh!
- There were early reports (around 7 p.m.) that U.S. Senate frontrunner Dan Coats had practiced his victory speech from the podium at the Indianapolis Marriott. Guess he didn’t mind tempting fate a bit.
- Interesting to see those U.S. Senate and other TV ads airing in the final minutes before the polls closed. Candidates seeking a last-minute push? Nah! Just the intricacies of televison scheduling.
- Indy Star’s Matt Tully notes on Chamber webcast that all Republicans leading the congressional primaries were doing so with less than 50% of the vote (current Indiana Rep. Jackie Walorski did move up to 57% a short time later in dominating her race to challenge Joe Donnelly)
Mitch Harper is author of the popular blog, Fort Wayne Observed. He is also a Fort Wayne City Councilman.
The news may be that multiple counties are reporting that absentee and early voting levels are only at or below the typical levels for a mid-term election. This tends to suggest that a surge of motivated voters dissatisfied with government in general and the federal government, in particular, is not occurring in the primary cycle.
That surge may yet appear this fall. But these lower primary numbers mean that the typical Republican primary voter this year looks a lot like, well, the traditional Republican primary voter. And that probably is a favorable sign for former Senator Dan Coats and incumbent 3rd District Congressman Mark Souder.
Senate: This is home ground for former Senator Dan Coats and State Senator Marlin Stutzman. Dan Coats is less strong here on his old home turf than many would have expected. Marlin Stutzman is well regarded here and has his own base. Marlin also benefits by being the alternative choice of voters who might otherwise be in play for Mr. Coats or Mr. Hostettler. The impression that he is gaining momentum will have him taking votes from both Coats and Hostettler here during the next week. Will it be enough to offset the older, traditional Republican voter who favorably appreciates Dan Coats’ prior service? Maybe in northeastern Indiana but Marlin needs an extraordinary vote here to give him a chance statewide.
However, by the conduct of his campaign, Marlin Stutzman comes out a winner regardless of Tuesday’s outcome.
Senate District 17: The race to fill the seat of retiring State Senator "Doc" Dillon is likely to be an easy win for Whitley County Councilman Jim Banks. Mr. Banks is a meticulous campaign organizer. He is regarded as being favored easily in all of the District 17 counties with the exception of Huntington, home of County Commissioner Tom Wall. It is not that Mr. Banks won’t win that county, too, it’s just that Huntington politics is always interesting.
US Representative, Third District: US Representative Mark Souder should win renomination. The question probably is whether he wins with over 50% of the vote over three challengers. Auto dealer Bob Thomas has spent heavily and the effect has been to marginalize Phil Troyer as the alternative choice.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Out of respect for our guest bloggers, we will not be allowing anonymous comments on their blogs this week. Additionally, the Indiana Chamber does not necessarily share the opinions of our guest bloggers.