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County draws up wish list

Fuel revenue for roads leads legislative priority

Just in time for Christmas, county officials presented state lawmakers with a legislative wish list Thursday.

Local officials urged state legislators to divert fuel tax revenue to cities and counties to maintain streets and highways. That revenue is currently used to finance the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and Indiana State Police, officials said.

That issue was the top priority during a brief presentation for about a dozen state representatives. The diversion of fuel taxes has caused counties to lose nearly $2 million since it started in 2003, said Beth Lock, county director of government affairs.

That money would normally be used for roads, she said.

While the county has $16.1 million budgeted toward roads and highways in 2013, it needs about $17.5 million just to maintain those roads, she said.

“That’s not including any new projects,” Lock said. “This is a huge issue in Allen County.”

County Commissioner Nelson Peters said the county continues to work with city officials on a joint legislative agenda that will address the county’s needs. The legislative session begins Jan. 7 in Indianapolis.

Other items at the top of the county’s list include:

Transportation funding – The county wants gasoline tax indexing based on the consumer price index and favors incentives for alternative fuel vehicles.

911 fees – County officials support a legislative change that would allow 911 fee revenue to be captured on any device or technology capable of communicating with 911 through user fees or technology taxes to help fund operational costs. The annual operational budget for the 911 service center is $7 million, Lock said. Allen County receives $2.4 million from user fees, and the operation must be partly subsidized by property tax revenue. Allen County currently receives revenue from land lines, contract cellphones and prepaid wireless cards. Prepaid cellphones are the fastest-growing segment of phone service and many officials believe the 50-cent fee is not high enough.

Inmate medical costs – The county wants increased funding of inmate health care costs and to eliminate the county’s obligation to pay for pre-existing conditions. The county also wants lawmakers to provide a mechanism for inmates who have been released to repay the county for health care received while incarcerated and to mandate that inmates eligible for Medicare pay a matching portion.

Criminal sentencing – Local officials want an incentive program to reward counties that minimize the number of nonviolent felons who are committed to state correctional facilities, while supporting state-funded local programs that aid in reducing and rehabilitating low-level felony offenders.

vsade@jg.net

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