EDITORIAL: Pocketful of cash, long list of needs

2012-12-02T00:00:00Z 2012-12-02T22:22:06Z EDITORIAL: Pocketful of cash, long list of needs nwitimes.com
December 02, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Just before Thanksgiving, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels announced Hoosier income taxpayers would receive $111 each next year on their tax returns. That's because of the state's $2.15 billion surplus.

The refund is mandated by a state law Daniels asked the General Assembly to draft.

"Better that these dollars remain in the pockets of the men and women who earned them than burn a hole in the pockets of government," Daniels said.

That's true, but only up to a point. Government shouldn't frivolously spend money just because it has it. But urgent unmet needs shouldn't be ignored, either.

And Indiana has many serious needs that must be addressed.

Just last week, Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner Michael Cline told the State Budget Committee that Indiana will be fighting a losing battle just to maintain existing roads when the Major Moves money runs dry.

The Illiana Expressway, which has been talked about in one form or another for more than a century, will have to be built as a toll road because Indiana and Illinois don't have the money to build it as a freeway. 

We already know the state's answer to the Cline Avenue bridge problem is to find someone else to pay for the repairs, after spending much of the money from the lease of the Indiana Toll Road to build a free expressway, I-69, in southern Indiana.

Although the Cline Avenue bridge is the only expressway in Indiana to have been closed for years with no plan for a rapid solution to reopen it, there are other bridges in bad shape throughout the state.

With the Major Moves money almost gone, and with new fuel-efficient cars and alternative-fuel fleets reducing Indiana's gas tax revenue, what's the state to do? Take up a collection from the taxpayers who will get those $111 refunds next year?

In fact, that's happening in school districts across the state. Last week, Union Township School Corp. became the latest district to decide to ask the taxpayers for a tax increase to counter cuts in state support.

State legislators should remember there are many infrastructure and other needs that aren't being addressed.

Getting a little extra money back will be nice, but don't make a habit of ignoring long-term investments in favor of short-term savings. The longer those investments are put off, the more costly those projects will be in the future.

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