At 4:45 p.m. on Friday night, Speaker of the House Larry Householder sent his members home for the weekend.
He had given the Senate until 4:30 p.m. to agree to a deal or he would close the House session and end all chance to reach a deal on the state’s transportation budget before March 31.
The date is significant because it takes 90 days for a bill to go into effect once it has been signed by the governor.
The state is required to have funding for transportation in place on July 1, making March 31 a de facto deadline.
Lawmakers and the governor are at odds over the exact amount to raise the gas tax.
The House and the governor have come to an agreement on an 11 cent increase for gasoline and a 20 cent increase for diesel fuel, which would go into effect immediately on July 1.
This is actually higher than what the House originally wanted and happens sooner.
The original bill the House sent the Senate was for an increase of 10.7 cents for gasoline and would phase into effect over time.
The Senate then slashed that amount to 6 cents for both gasoline and diesel.
All told, the House and Senate transportation budgets had dozens of differences, many of which have been worked out with the final budget consisting of an amalgamation of items from the governor’s proposed budget, the House version and the Senate version.
Only a few final items remain to be resolved, chief among them the gas tax increase.
Last night, funding for public transit appeared to be finalized with all sides agreeing to fund it at $70 million.
Still up in the air is a front license plate requirement. The Senate wants the plate to remain and the House wants to remove it.
Coming to resolution on these issues may happen over the weekend informally, as the House members of the conference committee charged with negotiating the final bill have also been sent home to their districts.
Senate President Larry Obhof says discussions will still be held, however, and a deal could still be put to pen by the middle of next week.
Should it take longer, there are other options open to the legislature and there is a general sense of a lack of urgency on this matter at this time.