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Mahern wants council members to disclose free game tix

January 25, 2013
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The Indianapolis City-County Council is poised to approve a huge increase in ticket taxes on professional sports, and one council member wants to make sure those voting on the hike disclose the freebies they get for Pacers and Colts games.

Democratic Councilor Brian Mahern has filed a proposal that would require council members to disclose gifts received from government entities, including municipal corporations. The proposal is aimed squarely at the Capital Improvement Board of Marion County, which operates Bankers Life Fieldhouse and Lucas Oil Stadium, and which receives revenue from the ticket tax. 

Council members including President Maggie Lewis, who is also a CIB director, readily admit that they've received free tickets, Mahern noted. “I’m not casting aspersions,” he said. “I believe there should be greater transparency in the reporting of gifts, period.”

The council will vote Monday night on the ticket-tax increase, as well as a hike in the car-rental tax. The tax on sports tickets and tickets for other for-profit events would go from 6 percent to 10 percent, a 67-percent jump. The local tax on car rentals would increase to 6 percent from 4 percent. Combined with 4-percent state rental tax and the 7-percent state sales tax, Marion County car-rental customers would pay a combined 17-percent tax after the increase.

Approval of the tax increases is likely because they're tied to a budget compromise with Mayor Greg Ballard.

Under the compromise, extra revenue in the first year, an estimated $6.7 million, will flow to the city's general fund, and the city will receive up to $3 million a year in the future.

Mahern’s proposal will be introduced Monday night and referred to the Ethics Committee.

The current ethics law requires council members to list on their annual ethics disclosures the people and firms from whom they received single gifts worth at least $100 and multiple gifts totaling $250 or more.

Mahern’s proposal expands that disclosure from people and firms doing business with the city or trying to influence the council to government entities. The proposal also adds gifts going to council members’ spouses and dependent children and requires the value of the gifts to be listed.

Also Monday, the council is set to vote on a new tax-increment finance district called North Midtown. The most controversial aspect of the new TIF district is that it will include a new Broad Ripple parking garage-retail development, for which the city donated $6.5 million in meter revenue. The garage, still under construction, is integrated with Keystone Construction Corp.’s mixed-use development.

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