House panel takes corporate tax increase out of mass transit bill

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A House committee stripped a corporate tax increase out of a bill that would authorize an expanded mass transit system for central Indiana.

But the committee left language that lets local officails increase individual income taxes to pay for the multi-county system, if voters agree.

“None of these counties are forced to participate,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel. “This bill provides nothing but local option, local control for local elected officials to have a mechanism to create an expanded transit system for central Indiana.”

The House Roads and Transportation Committee passed the amended bill 11-1. Chairman Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, said he’s not sure if the bill will head next to the Ways and Means Committee, which considers fiscal issues, or go straight to the full House.

If the House approves the bill as amended, it will set up a debate between the Republican-controlled chambers about who pays for expanded transit.

As passed by the Senate, the bill would let local officials in six central Indiana counties—Delaware, Hamilton, Hancock, Johnson, Madison and Marion—seek voter approval to raise income taxes and creates a new local corporate income tax. The Senate version of the bill also requires that user fares fund at least 25 percent of the co—st of operating the bus system.

Sen. Brent Waltz, R-Indianapolis, pushed to include the corporate tax increases in the legislation after a number of larger companies—including Eli Lilly and Co.—lobbied for an expanded bus system. Business leaders say it’s necessary to move central Indiana workers to jobs.

“I always thought it was curious that some of the large corporations that had been talking about the need for mass transit weren’t paying any taxes toward it,” Waltz said. “Being able to have a fairer, more comprehensive tax structure takes the right approach.”

But on Wednesday, Soliday said the corporate income tax provisions wouldn’t “add very much” to the funding structure for the project. And he said adding a new tax to the state’s existing local tax structure might not be a good idea.

So on his suggestion, the committee removed the language. Lawmakers also added a seventh count,  Hendricks, to those that could participate and stripped out some controversial labor restrictions that had been approved by the Senate.

However, the bill retains a provision that bans the counties from using the money to build light rail. Rep. Tom Saunders, R-Lewisville, said he’d like to see that restriction removed.

“I don’t know why we’re tying their hands regarding rail,” Saunders said. “If that’s a decision down the road they need to make, I don’t know why we would make them come back at a point to address that.”

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, a Republican, told lawmakers Wednesday he’d like to see legislation with as few restrictions as possible. But he supported the bill, saying it’s “important to get our toe in the door.”

“Do I expect to get everything I want? Probably not,” he said.

But he said the legislation would give his community and others the freedom they need to develop a better mass transit system, one that would ferry lower income workers to jobs while attracting young professionals to the city.

“We see a clear trend developing in cities across America,” Ballard said. “People want to be able to visit local shops, restaurants, galleries, sports. And they want to do it on a bike, on a walking trail, they want to do it on good mass transit.”


  • Enough with the rail hooey
    Snow and ice (like we have experienced this winter) disrupted Portland, Oregon's light rail lines & service for *days* just a week or two ago. A connection to Amtrak has ZERO value when Amtrak services are discontinued (as they should be). A Univ. of California prof (McFadden) long ago (1970 or so) won a Nobel Prize demonstrating that people decide their trip with NO regard for whether its a bus or a train (but instead for the characteristics of the service offered - speed, convenience, frequency, fare, comfort, etc.) Rail has NO inherent superiority to bus on any of those and actually performs far worse in covering a geographic area (one rail line can't go everywhere the buses do.)
  • Duh
    Who needs Mass Transit when we have bike lanes.
  • To DC Indy
    Obviously ridership revenues will not totally pay for mass transit - the same goes with any other form of transportation. Do user fees pay for sidewalks? Does the gas tax completely pay for bridges and highways? No. Its a service to the public.
  • Why?
    I am puzzled about why we are even considering mass transit in the first place. Ridership revenue has never been enough to support IndyGo. Take a look at the website, where they post their Statements of Financial Condition. If not for tax revenue and support from the FTA, IndyGo would be insolvent. Ridership doesn't support Amtrak, or even the South Shore railway up in Northern Indiana. These things, once created, don't get used, but never go away, owing their perpetual existence to an ever increasing burden on the taxpayers.
  • Light Rail or Nothing
    This isn't worth doing if you're not going to do it will. Light rail is a necessity. Don't bother just upgrading buses.
  • Middle class workers bilked again
    Can't say that I'm surprised. It pays less and less to be a worker in America these days. Politicians and their special interest groups come up with big ideas and hand the bill to the middle class. I will be showing my disgust at the polls by voting against mass transit expansion.
  • Screw the little guy
    Here we go again, Indiana, Sock it to the little guy. Why should the rich and powerful pay for anything when you can stick it to the poor and weak. Shame on you legislature. Hopefully the voters will show our disgust at the polls
  • Dump this Mass Trans
    Well, that doesn't come as any surprise. Given the fact that millions of dollars of taxpayer monies, countless committee meetings, public surveys, and the upgrading of rail crossings through the North East corridor of Marion/Hamilton County, has already been spent. Now, we hear that all of those monies, hours, and time, just went down the tubes, because our illustrious mayor and ill informed state senator drafted a tunnel envisioned bill, that will utilize ONLY buses. Buses, that surveys indicate, commuters will not ride, will pour toxins into the air, and stand to get stranded in inclement weather, such as this winter, and will not breathe life back into a struggling Union Station. Taxpayers in Hamilton County also got to flip the bill to hire and maintain a Port Authority Director, as well as a train station. In Marion County, we got to pay for grade crossing upgrades, that included warning lights,bells and gates. We paid for ridership surveys, that overwhelmingly approved of light rail service; we even got to pay to have Amtrak bring in, with plenty of headaches and man hours, a diesel operated rail car, that held up to one hundred passengers. Now we hear that the proposed law is going to use only buses. Buses will not be able to move commuters at the speed, efficiency, and ease, as light rail would have provided. Buses will not be able to get commuters out of Indy, if hit with major snow events, like we have experienced this winter. Buses will not bring monies to the maintaining of Union Station and its potential vendors. Buses will not provide a link to Amtrak, who might to use the rail service to travel out of state. And now, we are being told that we will be taxed even more to provide for a service, that this city's mayor and some ill informed state senator drafted and proposed, that passed, in spite of trepidation. One has to wonder what all of the monies, hours, and wages, were even for, to begin with, and other 'hidden expenses' are yet to come. If this becomes law, and if anyone will ride all of these buses, potential commuters will have plenty of time, stuck in traffic, to ponder this.

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