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Kenley drops out as sponsor of mass-transit bill

March 19, 2013

Already skeptical of a mass-transit plan for the Indianapolis metro area, influential Sen. Luke Kenley has dropped his sponsorship of a related bill that’s due for its first Senate hearing Wednesday.

Kenley, R-Noblesville, said he decided it was inappropriate to be listed as a sponsor without giving the bill his unqualified support.

“I’ve never been too persuaded by the need for this,” he said Tuesday morning.

House Bill 1011 would allow Marion and surrounding counties to hold an advisory referendum on whether to raise local income taxes to help pay for a new transit system. The current 10-year plan calls for doubling bus service and adding rapid transit from Noblesville to downtown, as well as along other routes.

The proposal calls for adding a 0.3-percent income tax to the existing tax of 1 percent in Hamilton County and 1.62 percent in Marion County.

If the bill passes this year, Marion and Hamilton counties could put the question on ballots in the 2014 general election.

The Senate’s local government committee is scheduled to hear the bill at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. The debate is to center on “policy issues only,” according to a note on the committee calendar, adding, “Tax and fiscal issues to be discussed in another committee if bill passed.”

Ron Gifford, executive director of Indy Connect Now, the group promoting the transit plan, declined to comment on Kenley’s position, since he hadn’t spoken with the senator himself.

Based on conversations with members of the local government committee, Gifford said the bill should survive the Wednesday hearing. “I’m not aware of any significant opposition at this point,” he said.

Earlier this month, Kenley told IBJ that he had doubts about transit promoters’ financing plan, but he was willing to give local government the opportunity to put the question to voters.

Kenley said he reconsidered giving the referendum a green light after seeing that 60 percent of his constituents oppose the plan, according to a poll he conducted on his website. Many wrote notes to express just how strongly they oppose the plan, Kenley said.

Kenley, chair of the Senate appropriations committee, also serves on the tax and fiscal policy committee, which is likely to hear the bill if it passes the first committee. He downplayed his influence over colleagues. “I don’t know of anybody in the Senate that votes the way I want ‘em to vote,” he said.

 

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