LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Two Senate bills that would give Hoosiers a financial break on Ohio River bridge tolls won’t advance in the Indiana General Assembly this year.

A House bill further penalizing drivers who conceal their license plates in an effort to avoid tolls on the RiverLink network also is dead for the 2017 session.

The measures sponsored by state Sen. Ron Grooms, R-Jeffersonville, Rep. Ed. Clere, R-New Albany and Rep. Steve Stemler, D-Jeffersonville, failed to get the required number of readings by a February 27 deadline and no longer can be considered.

Tolling on the Interstate 65 Kennedy and Lincoln bridges between Louisville and Jeffersonville, and the upriver Lewis and Clark Bridge, began in late December. Grooms proposed giving residents of Floyd and Clark counties an income tax deduction and allowing businesses to claim a tax credit for some toll expenses.

Neither of the bills received a committee hearing, but Grooms said Tuesday he was optimistic they would have been at least discussed this year.

“I thought since it only impacted Clark and Floyd county residents that it might have a shot at getting heard because of the fact the projections of the tolling revenue are pretty good,” he said.

Senate Bill 378 would have let a business based in one of the Indiana counties get a tax credit of up to $1,000 after incurring at least $500 of toll costs. SB 379 would have allowed residents of the counties to claim a tax deduction of up to $500 based on toll expenses.

In both cases, RiverLink accounts would be required for the tax breaks.

The tax deduction would reduce revenue in the state’s general fund by up to $1 million starting in 2019 and lower the tax base in local counties, according to a fiscal note attached to the bill. “That’s where the problem really starts to surface,” Grooms said.

He filed similar bills last year, but they also died in a committee. He said he plans to try again next year but may expand the legislation to all toll roads in Indiana, especially as state lawmakers consider tolling more interstate lanes.  

Clere and Stemler were the authors of House Bill 1269, which sought to fine drivers up to an additional $500 for wrongly displaying a license plate, bringing the total possible penalty to $1,000. Drivers without RiverLink transponders receive invoices after crossing the bridges based on photographs of their vehicles’ license plates.

Revenue from the citations would go to help pay off debt on the toll bridges if they occur in Clark or a neighboring county. Elsewhere, the money would be funneled into Indiana’s highway fund.

Clere said the bill is needed to deter people from attempting the shield their license plates in a bid to escape tolls. He noted a company that sells a spray meant to make license plates illegible to red-light and other roadway cameras, and he singled out the case of a Florida driver who reportedly used a device to cover his plate on toll roads.

“I don’t think most people mind paying their fair share, but it’s important that everyone pays their fair share,” Clere said. “That’s what this bill would have addressed.”

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