INDIANAPOLIS — Motorists almost certainly will notice when fuel prices across Indiana increase by 10 cents per gallon on July 1.
Earlier this year, the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb enacted a fuel tax hike to fund road construction projects and restore the buying power lost to inflation since the current fuel tax rates were established more than a decade ago.
But that's far from the only new charge Hoosiers soon will pay.
Altogether, Indiana lawmakers imposed or increased at least 45 different taxes and fees on everything from notary services to teacher background checks, according to a review by The Times of every law passed during the 2017 legislative session.
Holcomb declined to characterize that as "a lot" of tax and fee hikes.
He instead was quick to insist, "I'm very comfortable with paying for what we need."
That includes, in addition to the fuel tax increases, a new $15 per year vehicle registration fee that Hoosiers will pay starting in 2018 to fund local road construction projects.
Commercial vehicles also will be charged higher registration fees to better account for the wear and tear they do to Indiana's roads, while electric ($150) and hybrid ($50) vehicle owners will be hit with new charges since they tend to purchase less gasoline than other motorists.
Fees go up on variety of services
Hoosiers using the court system will pay more in a few different ways.
For example, the $19 automated record-keeping fee assessed on every case filed and used to update court technology was supposed to drop to $5 on July 1.
Lawmakers instead increased the fee to $20 and agreed to maintain it at that rate indefinitely.
Likewise, the $1 pro bono legal services fee attached to every civil case, which was set to expire at the end of the month, will continue to pay for lawyers for low-income residents until at least 2022.
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It also now will cost $28, instead of $25, for a sheriff's deputy to serve an individual notice of a legal filing, and Indiana notaries can charge $10, up from $2, to witness a signature.
In addition, any person convicted of a felony, misdemeanor or infraction will have to pay a $3 DNA sample processing fee — a $1 increase — even if authorities do not record their DNA.
State Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, chairman of the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee, said Indiana lawmakers adjust various taxes and fees every year, but strive to avoid a general tax increase on incomes or sales.
"Many of us feel that's a good policy, because it's a fee-for-service model and people can make a decision as to whether it's a good value for them or not, and whether they're getting bang for their buck," Hershman said.
Hershman was sponsor of a new law, commonly known as a "jock tax," that explicitly requires professional athletes and motorsports competitors to pay income tax when they work in Indiana.
He said he doesn't really consider that a new tax since anyone who works in Indiana already incurs an income tax liability.
It's simply streamlining the filing process for athletes living in other states who might have ignored their Indiana tax obligations in the past, he said.
More occupations now regulated
However, lawmakers separately decided to require state licensing for several previously unregulated or minimally regulated occupations, business practices or health services, including massage therapy, small cellular tower placement, out-of-state social workers, cannabidiol treatment for epileptics, billboard relocation and manufactured-home dealers.
Those licenses will cost Hoosiers between $10 and $400.
Similarly, school employees now may have to pay $30 to $40 for a renewal background check every five years if their employer chooses not to pay for it, and college students must cough up between $100 and $150 for a mandatory meningitis vaccine if they do not have health insurance.
House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City, quipped that he's not sure Hoosier Republicans are the party of Ronald Reagan anymore, since the high number of tax and fee increases they enacted seemingly go against the tax-cutting policies championed by the 40th president.
"Sometimes I get a little flummoxed," Pelath said. "The raids on the private citizens' wallets come in a myriad of ways, in very small amounts, spread over a very wide area ... and they're very hard to keep up with."