Taking the lead on necessary government policy often leaves the leader exposed, especially where tax increases are concerned.

It can garner the people leading the needed but unpopular charge a whole lot of grief. It takes courage and grit to withstand the critics and political blowback by doing what you know to be right.

So it was refreshing Tuesday when such grit earned Indiana House Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce's "Government Leader of the Year" award.

For six years, Soliday pushed hard for a state plan of long-term, sustainable funding for Indiana's crumbling road infrastructure.

The reality of long-term Hoosier road needs called for additional revenue. It was clear from all the data, upon which Soliday, a fiscal conservative by nature, relied.

That led to the unpopular decision of proposing a 10-cents-per-gallon gas tax increase and boosting vehicle registration fees to raise the needed average of $1.2 billion for state and local roads and bridges.

But unpopularity is relative. Plenty of thinking Hoosiers also realize crumbling highways are untenable to our economy and quality of life.

The state had been kicking the can down a pothole-laced, patchwork of road funding plan for years.

Soliday's plan passed both Indiana General Assembly chambers and was signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb following the 2017 session.

Now Soliday is taking some political fire over the tax increase.

Nothing worth having is free, and road infrastructure — the most important single backbone of our state's economy — deserves long-term, sustainable care, not short-term triage.

Sometimes leaders must look the masses in the eye and be real with them.

It's what Soliday did, and we now have the sensible fix for Hoosier roads that has so long been on detour.

The chamber award is deserved. The political sniping, from corners that only propose criticism without real solutions, should be ignored by all thinking Hoosiers.

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Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Editorial Page Editor Marc Chase, Editor Bob Heisse, Politics/History Editor Doug Ross and Managing Editor Erin Orr.