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Mass-transit bill amended, ready for House vote

February 21, 2013

A bill to let voters authorize higher taxes in central Indiana to pay for an expanded mass-transit system is ready for a full vote in the House after an amendment restricted who would be affected by it.

House Bill 1011 would now apply only to the more urban and suburban areas of the region and exempt rural townships from both voting on whether to authorize the taxes and paying the taxes.

Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero, offered the amendment to exempt rural areas — those farthest from Indianapolis — from the legislation. Supporters of the change said the mass-transit program won’t reach those areas and, therefore, the people who live there shouldn’t have to pay the taxes to support the program.

Turner said it’s likely many of those residents would have voted against the tax hikes and could have made the $1.3 billion project less likely to succeed.

“Even the proponents would say that the opportunity to move to mass transit might actually be enhanced because those in the perimeter would not count,” Turner said.

The House approved the amendment on a voice vote and the bill is now eligible for full House passage. A vote could come as early as Thursday.

The bill cleared the House Ways and Means Committee a week ago on a 20-2 vote.

The bill creates a referendum that — if approved — would let counties raise income taxes by 0.3 percent to pay for more buses, more routes to more places and, eventually, the construction of a commuter rail system between Marion and Hamilton counties.

For a family with taxable income of $75,000, the potential tax hike would be roughly $225 per year.

The earliest possible date for ballot issues in Marion and Hamilton counties would be the 2014 general election.

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