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Legislators collide over regional mass-transit plan

September 10, 2013

Sen. Brent Waltz kicked off a second meeting of a legislative study committee on mass transit Tuesday morning by sparring with a fellow state lawmaker and introducing his proposal to widen roads and rebuild Indianapolis’ bus service, IndyGo, from scratch.

Waltz, a Republican who represents southern Marion and northern Johnson counties, has been a leading critic of the proposed Indy Connect mass-transit plan for central Indiana. The $1.3 billion plan would double local bus service, add express routes to the suburbs, and build five rapid-transit lines over 10 years.

Waltz has instead floated an alternative plan that calls for widening north-south commuter corridors like Martin Luther King Jr. Street, Capitol Avenue and College Avenue. It also recommends rapid-transit bus lines, as well as reforming IndyGo.

On Tuesday, Waltz answered a series of pointed questions from fellow committee member Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, who suggested Waltz was trying to dictate details of mass-transit planning.

Waltz objected, saying he was not seeking to have the Legislature decide which roads should be widened through Indianapolis. He agreed that decisions about mass transit should be made by local governments but said the Legislature should provide “leadership” in setting goals.

“So we should determine the regional transportation plan for central Indiana?” DeLaney asked.

Waltz countered that DeLaney was putting words in his mouth and then complained that DeLaney had likened his plan to a “bromide” in a letter to IBJ in July. “Which I think is interesting, considering some of your proposals are about as antiquated as that term,” he added.

The study committee is a product of failed legislation that would have allowed Marion and surrounding counties to hold referendums to raise local income taxes to support a regional mass-transit system. The committee is scheduled to meet twice more in October and may recommend new legislation for the 2014 General Assembly.

Waltz is advocating for local control on funding sources. He thinks each county should be able to choose whether to raise income taxes—as proposed in the plan the Legislature shot down last session—or sales taxes, which might be the preference of Johnson County officials.

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, said he thinks the state should set the tax policy. “If you don’t play a role, we could end up with a policy that drives residents out of Marion County or even Indiana,” he said.

 

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