Pence: Tolls will stay on bridges project, outlines agenda


by Joe Arnold

Posted on February 1, 2013 at 10:27 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 1 at 10:41 PM

  LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Indiana is committed to drivers paying tolls to finance the Ohio River Bridges Project, but  a "free way" to cross the Ohio River should always be  available, Governor Mike Pence (R-Indiana) told WHAS11 on Friday.

"To make sure that those that are utilizing bear a significant portion of the cost of paying for the bridge," Pence said.  "And we're going to accept that agreement

that's already been put into place, but again we're going to sharpen our pencils. We're going to make sure that there's always a free way to get where people want to get," Pence added.

Pence toured the Indiana end of the East End Crossing in Utica Friday afternoon.  In January, contractors began  clearing the way for the east end bridge - cutting trees and demolishing buildings.

Indiana is responsible for the construction of the east end bridge.  Kentucky is responsible for the new downtown bridge.  Tolls on both new bridges and the Kennedy Bridge downtown will fund the project.

Though Pence is not changing the tolling agreement, his push for a 10 percent cut in income taxes could put more change back in Hoosiers' pockets.

Pence said with one of the strongest balance sheets in the nation, Indiana should make the move "I think because we can afford to fund our priorities and reduce taxes I think Indiana should," Pence told WHAS11.

Pence's budget includes funding increases in transportation, Medicaid and education.  His school funding proposal includes a $64 million bonus pool to be split among the state's best performing schools. "We want to make sure we are celebrating the teachers that are getting the job done," Pence said, adding that struggling schools will still be fully funded.

Teachers and union members picketed the statehouse during Gov. Mitch Daniels' tenure.  Pence says he has started his term by including all sides of debates.

"As people get to know me, they'll find out that we have some pretty fixed opinions about things but we have tremendous respect and I love to listen and I love to learn," he said.