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Gov. Holcomb reiterates support for fuel tax increases, new tolling, during State of the State address

(Photo Supplied / Holcomb for Governor)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WOWO): Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb says drivers should be willing to invest a little more in order to boost funding for the state’s highways.

While the new Republican governor avoided using his first State of the State speech Tuesday night to directly support proposed gasoline tax increases, he said the extra tax money would be a worthwhile investment for the state’s communities and economy.

Holcomb has previously said he supports increasing the state’s 18-cents-a-gallon gas tax. Legislative Republicans have proposed increasing that tax by 10 cents-a-gallon and adding $15 to the annual vehicle registration fee.

“The fact is, existing sources of revenue are just not keeping up,” Governor Holcomb said. “I’m a believer that every time you ask a taxpayer for a dollar, you better be darn sure you need it and are going to use it effectively for its intended purpose. And, here’s a case that if we ask Hoosiers to invest a little more to meet the need, the return is going to be well worth it—for them, for our communities, and for our economy.”

The Legislature’s badly outnumbered Democrats question why a gasoline tax hike is needed while the state continues to cut taxes for corporations.

Holcomb also praised a county health department nurse’s work in running a needle-exchange program while calling in his State of the State speech for more action to fight drug abuse.

Holcomb introduced Fayette County nurse Paula Maupin as one of the state’s heroes saving lives each day. Fayette is among nine counties around the state with such programs aimed at curbing the spread of HIV and hepatitis C among intravenous drug users.

Holcomb told legislators that the drug epidemic has had devastating impacts on families and communities. He says the state will give counties more authority to start programs providing clean syringes.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence was reluctant to support starting the needle exchanges when he was governor.

Holcomb outlined his Next Level Legislative Agenda for the 2017 session just days before his inauguration. The agenda presents five pillars designed to address the key challenges facing our state today while positioning Indiana for long-term success and economic growth:

1. Cultivate a strong and diverse economy to ensure Indiana is a magnet for jobs.
2. Fund a long-term roads and bridges plan.
3. Develop a 21st century skilled and ready workforce.
4. Attack the drug epidemic.
5. Provide great government service.

Beyond his five legislative priorities, the Governor maintained his support for a fourth water port in Southern Indiana to accelerate economic development as well as for amending the Indiana Constitution to ensure the state passes balanced biennial budgets for generations to come. He said his administration would focus on a long-term plan for bringing clean coal technology and innovation to the state.

Governor Holcomb ended his address with a commitment to working with people from all walks of life.

“I will continue to reach out to everyone with ideas that can lift all Hoosiers, including those who may not always agree on everything but are willing to find opportunities to solve problems and move our state forward,” Governor Holcomb said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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