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Mass-transit plan draws critics in state hearing

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Tea party activists who are among the harshest critics of a proposal to boost central Indiana's mass transit offerings told a legislative committee Thursday they oppose any tax increases to pay for expanding local bus service or a possible light rail line in the heavily populated region.

Two suburban Indianapolis business officials, meanwhile, told the panel that expanding mass transit would make the region more attractive to young professionals and help spur development.

In April, Indiana lawmakers delayed action on a bill that would have allowed voters in 10 central Indiana counties to decide whether to increase local income taxes to fund the proposed $1.3 billion plan. The Legislature instead turned the issue over to a committee to study and report back its findings.

Don Bauder, the president of the Tea Party of Hamilton County, told that committee that central Indiana's tax burden is already too high and another tax increase isn't wanted.

"We are tapped out," he told the panel. "That $1.3 billion isn't available. That's my money — that's your money."

Bauder also said private enterprise, not taxpayers, should pay for any mass transit expansion and that the Indianapolis area's existing bus services hasn't stifled its economic development.

Bill Schneider, a former Indianapolis City-County Council member who's now a tea party activist, said many of the buses on Indianapolis' current IndyGo bus line are little-used and the focus needs to be on improving those lines to boost ridership. He also said the Indianapolis metropolitan area can't support the type of light rail system found in Chicago, New York, Cleveland and other cities.

"The city and the counties around us have not grown to that extent," Schneider said.

Mo Merhoff, president of the Carmel Chamber of Commerce, told the panel that improving mass transit to get people to and from work, shopping centers and entertainment venues is what other big metropolitan areas are moving toward.

"Why do we presume that none of these national trends affect central Indiana? Why do we presume that none of these indicators pertain to us?" she asked. "The amenities that attract businesses and jobs matter, and transit is simply increasingly one of those components."

Christian Maslowski, president of the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce, said mass transit spurs development and attracts the type of young professionals businesses are eager to hire.

"It's no longer enough just to create the economic climate to attract new businesses. We must also create a place where top talent wants to live," he said.

Members of the Central Indiana Transit Study Committee have already heard from mayors, transportation officials and others who support expanding mass transit. The panel still must vote on its recommendations and send them to the full General Assembly before Dec. 15. The next legislative session begins in January.

The panel's chair, Sen. Pat Miller, said the proposal for a light rail line has generated significant "pushback" by the public and lawmakers, but expanding bus services has garnered more support.

Miller, R-Indianapolis, said she does not like the idea of raising local income taxes to pay for mass transit. She said the panel would consider the idea of increasing corporate taxes and other funding options.

"I'm not enthralled with the idea of increasing taxes to fund transportation, so we've got to look for other sources," she said.

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  • Good Public Transit
    I am glad the state held a public meeting to discuss the importance of allowing the Indianapolis region to vote on if they would want to fund the a portion of the project through increased taxes. This is an important part of democracy but there should also be more attempts by the study committee to engage the public further to hear more stories of the importance of strengthening public transit within the region. Potentially, they could host field hearings throughout the Indianapolis region at different times of the day to ensure that everybody has the chance to present their ideas. Not everybody can make a hearing in the middle of the workday. More comprehensive public transportation is needed to retain and attract new residents and businesses. It is import to invest in a multi-modal approach to transportation that includes roadways, buses, trains, and bicycles. These different approaches help serve the community even if you are not directly impacted by or use public transportation. There is a higher rate of return for every dollar invested in public transportation compared to only investing in road infrastructure. This higher return will increase revenues and allow for better schools, parks, and services. Indianapolis and the surrounding counties are making great progress with a regional trail system, increase walkability, and redevelopment of core neighborhoods but increased public transportation will help foment this growth. Indianapolis used to be leader with the first union station and a world-class inter-urban network. Indianapolis can return to being a leader in transportation but the first step is to let the state allow the region to vote if they want to move forward and match a generational move away from only using automobiles.
  • Tea Party Hypocrites
    Once again, Tea Party activists are proving they do not stand for the principles and virtues they proclaim. Centralized government that denies local control over basic transit investments is just fine in this case. Meanwhile, they advocate for less centralized government control. They cry "we are tapped out" when it comes to mass transit investment, but then applaud when new road building projects are announced. They rail against the Affordable Care Act as government intrusion in our personal lives, but then want the government to control women's reproductive rights and which relationships are worthy of marriage rights. Their causes are dishonest and meaningless.
  • what happens if??
    How does the vote count work? what if Marion county votes yes and Hamilton county votes no? Is it a "total" vote? Also, I am not a tea party person at all, but I am not in favor of raising my income taxes about 500 bucks a year.....forever.....for something I will never get to use. If they build the light rail, it will be 8-10 miles away from my house...useless...
  • Address for Dennis
    Here you go Dennis... Ronald Reagan Building Tea Party 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue #190 Suite 428 Washington, D.C. 20004 Phone: (714) 796-1776
  • Teaparty & GOP
    Of course the Tea-Party is opposed to helping lower income & car-less Indy citizens. They've become the party of "ME." Republicans can no longer try & claim the mantle of being Super Patriots...they could care less about the country as a whole...it's all about THEM. The GOVT. shutdown has been a wake-up for the country and thankfully the GOP is on the way out.
  • What's the Tea Party's mailing address?
    I'm a right-wing conservative who has always paid his own way and believes the U.S. Constitution should drive and guide our government's actions. I have almost exclusively voted Republican in presidential races over the past 40+ years (with an exception or two) and that, along with my 'demographics' (white, married, somewhat wealthy retired business owner, etc.) has me branded as a Tea Partier. I have tried, to no avail, to find this party's address, its director, board of directors, etc. I would appreciate one of those of you who disparages me for my unwillingness to donate half of that which I have earned and retained to those who choose not to work providing me with the information I cannot find. Thank you.
  • liking the freebies
    Irvingtonguy, since your hypothetical situation is unconstitutional, it's not even worthwhile to argue it. But even if it were implemented, you'd be in for a rude awakening. Not every opponent to the Tea party is a freeloader; in fact, the Tea Party is getting more fringe by the day...or maybe "fringe" is the better descriptor for the national Republican Party, as it refuses to shake off the Tea Party albatross.
  • Ostrich Mentality
    Regardless of party affiliation, if Mr. Bauder can toss around unsubstantiated opinions, then so can I. I suspect that he is trying to make a name for himself and thinks that he has found the quickest way to do it. I also suspect that his underwear is way too tight.
  • Yes lets vote
    The only people who should be allowed to vote are the people who are currently employed and paying an income tax. Those who like all the freebies will of course vote to raise someone else's tax. I doubt very much it would pass if only those who would pay more could vote on this.
  • LOL
    The Tea Party is comprised, mostly, of crackpot, doomsaying, conspiracy theorist militia members. They are the joke of American politics.
  • Always angry about something
    Amusing to see the left fuming around about the Tea Party.
  • Tea Party
    The Tea Party is ruining America. Plain and simple. All we are asking for is a chance to vote to raise our own taxes.
  • Local governance
    Isn't governance at the local level one of the big issues with today's conservatives? What is more 'local level' than allowing voters in select counties to raise their own taxes? At least let us vote!
  • Tea
    doesn't want voters to decide the issue. Plain and simple. They have no analysis to back up their assertions that "it's not needed" and it "hasn't hurt economic development". Nor do they have any plan that addresses the issues identified by the Indy Connect analysis. "Shut it down" seems to be the mantra everywhere.

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  2. Daniel Lilly - Glad to hear about your points and miles. Enjoy Wisconsin and Illinois. You don't care one whit about financial discipline, which is why you will blast the "GOP". Classic liberalism.

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