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House OKs IMS bill, despite dispute over funding source

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A bill to help pay for $100 million in improvements at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway passed the House on Monday—but only on its second try, as some lawmakers expressed frustration about a funding source for the project.

That funding—money now dedicated to the horse racing industry for purses and breeding programs—is actually part of another bill. But several lawmakers viewed the pair as a package, despite insistence by the Speedway bill’s sponsor, Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, that lawmakers should consider the proposals separately.

Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, asked Brown whether the money for the Speedway improvements would come from horse racing.

“This bill does not do that,” Brown said repeatedly of SB 91, the legislation that would authorize bonds to fund grandstand improvements, lighting and changes to make the Speedway more accessible to people with disabilities.

“But there’s a bill that does that,” DeLaney persisted.

“I’m confused,” Rep. Chuck Moseley, D-Portage, said a few minutes later. And he complained lawmakers weren’t being clear whether there would be a later vote on SB 528, the companion gambling bill that dedicates $10 million for the speedway bond and other auto racing projects.

“Maybe we will,” Moseley said. “Maybe we won’t.”

Initially, SB 91 failed with 48 yes votes and 47 no votes. But because 51 members of the House—a simple majority—did not vote for or against the bill, it was eligible to be recalled for another vote. An hour or so later, Brown did so.

He told lawmakers that he did not mean to be unclear and he said the measure—if approved—would be moving to a conference committee, where members of the House and Senate would try to find a compromise on the legislation.

“People have worked very, very hard to get to this point,” said Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso. He urged lawmakers to approve the bill so the last details can be finalized.

The bill passed 56-36 the second time.

SB 528, the gambling bill, passed as well on a 73-17 vote after much less discussion. That bill is headed to a conference committee as well.

As crafted by the House Ways and Means Committee, the bills work in tandem to transfer money from the horse racing industry and use it to help pay off the bonds for the Speedway improvements.

SB 91 also creates a new $1 tax on the tickets for major events at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and captures new sales and income tax revenues generated there. Those revenue streams would be used to help pay off the bonds.

Under SB 528, the state would also take $5 million annually from money generated by slot machines at the race track casinos and use it to pay the bonds. That’s money currently transferred to the horse industry. The state would then take another $5 million a year from the horse racing fund to use for low-interest loans to other auto racing businesses across Indiana.

Rep. Eric Turner, R-Cicero, said the goal was to help all of motorsports, not just the home of the Indy 500 and Brickyard 400, and boost an industry that employs 23,000 Hoosiers in jobs that pay an average of more than $60,000 per year.

But Rep. Dan Leonard, R-Huntington, said taking money from one private industry to support another is bad public policy.

“How would you feel if we were asking the motor speedway to put this $10 tax on them and give it to the racinos?” he said to lawmakers. “The racinos were in bankruptcy. Maybe we should help them out.”

SB 528 also provides tax breaks to casinos to help them deal with out-of-state competition.

Rep. Sean Eberhart, R- Shelbyville, told lawmakers “to put away the pillow and wake-up” about the impact those out-of-state operations are having on Indiana tax revenues. He said the opening of a casino in Cincinnati has reduced gambling at riverboats in southeast Indiana by a quarter.

“We can’t ignore it,” Eberhart said. “We could’ve been proactive a few years ago. We failed to take those steps and now we’re in a reactive mode with our backs against the wall. We need to give them more tools to work with.”

Eberhart is advocating a change in the gambling bill that would let the state’s horse track casinos add live dealers. Currently, table games are conducted electronically.

That provision was part of SB 528 as passed by the Senate but was stripped out by the House Public Policy Committee.

“This bill isn’t perfect,” said Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson, who also supports live dealers. But “it’s what we need right now to keep this process moving.”

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  • Union Station
    Two words UNION STATION! If there are live casino dealers allowed in central Indiana to increase tax income it needs to be at Union Station to capture all the out of state convention money!

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  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

  2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

  3. Start drilling, start fracking, and start using our own energy. Other states have enriched their citizens and nearly elminated unemployment by using these resources that are on private land. If you are against the 'low prices' of discount stores, the best way to allow shoppers more choice is to empower them with better earnings. NOT through manipulated gov mandated min wage hikes, but better jobs and higher competitive pay. This would be direct result of using our own energy resources, yet Obama knows that Americans who arent dependent of gov welfare are much less likely to vote Dem, so he looks for ways to ensure America's decline and keep its citizens dependent of gov.

  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

  5. Ballard Administration. Too funny. This is the least fiscally responsive administration I have ever seen. One thing this article failed to mention, is that the Hoosier State line delivers rail cars to the Amtrak Beech Grove maintenance facility for refurbishment. That's an economic development issue. And the jobs there are high-paying. That alone is worth the City's investment.

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