Kenley drops out as sponsor of mass-transit bill

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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.



  • Not rail, but buses
    A few people commenting mentioned rail. It's my understanding that this plan does not include light rail, but only the more affordable shuttle service: "For years, local leaders have talked about building a transit line from Indy's airport to Downtown. Light rail has been bandied about as a potential option. Regional transit planners, however, say that BRT could accomplish the same goal of quickly shuttling convention visitors and sports fans to the heart of the city at a fraction of the cost. "If we wanted to spend money on expensive toys, we would build light rail to the airport" said Ron Gifford, executive director of the Central Indiana Transit Task Force. "But we're not interested in buying toys." http://www.indyconnectnow.com/UserFiles//File/IndyStar_CanWeAffordMassTransitPlannersHaveConservativeBudget(4).pdf
  • Transit Cost
    I have ridden the Fishers shuttle express downtown faithfully since it was introduced during Hyper-Fix and it is a great service. My problem with the current proposal is the extremely high cost of the light rail line. I could not vote for that, but would vote for a system that expands the bus routes to the donut counties. Unfortunately, the mass transit proponents want a commitment for the "works" up front. An expanded bus system service could be implemented at a much lower cost and would serve as a trial to determine if people are serious about utilizing mass transit. By using independent bus companies to expand the service, you're not tied to a big fixed cost that's impossible to recover.
  • No vote?
    Regardless of the pros/cons of mass transit, why is allowing people to vote on how transportation dollars are allocated locally controversial?
  • Tactics
    As a preview to how any referendum would go, simply read the comments on this board alone. Most of the opponents state their reason for opposing it, with frustration, but without animous. The proponents cannot counter these arguments and so they resort to name calling: backwards, old-fashioned, fearful, senseless, pathetic. it's straight out of the Chicago/Alinsky play book. Those who want mass transit plainly are willing to do whatever it takes to get what they want, even if it means furthering division and discord among the citizens. If it seems bad now, just let the bill pass and we'll all see just how nasty it can get.
  • I agree
    I agree with you, with one exception. The Simon family is a major Democrat supporter.
  • Predictable
    These people would have Indy wither on the vine. At this rate, Indy will be unable to attract anyone of any discernable talent. All to save a few bucks a month. Pathetic.
  • no need to fear voters or HB 1011
    Senator Kenley being influenced by the residents (voters?) in his district is laudable. They responded a resounding 60% against transit in his recent legislative survey. What then does the Senator have to fear by supporting HB1011? That would allow those same constituents to actually cast a vote on a real ballot, in a legimate election, on the question of whether to fund improved mass transit (presumably against, no worries, right Senator?).
  • White Elephant
    The notion that this is going to be a fair referendum vote is a joke. The pro side already has spent $1 million of our tax dollars to promote the mass transit boondoggle. It's good to see that Kenley has woken up to what a white elephant this will be. Indianapolis doesn't have the density for this sort of investment in mass transit, and especially not with railroad lines.
  • No evidence
    You have utterly no scientific evidence to back that claim up. You are conjecturing personal opinion, not fact.
  • Wow!!
    I'm amazed how some here completely disregard us taxpaying workers who pay for the huge ideas that politicians and their big corporate donors come up with. Matthew Tully today bemoans the fact that Indianapolis is losing so many people. Well, we're sick and tired of being bulldozed into paying for boondoggle projects like this. Yesterday, it was a huge public hospital. Today, it's mass transit. Tomorrow will be something else. Meanwhile, my property taxes are going up to pay, in part, for a pathetic excuse of a school system, my income taxes are going up, and my water and sewage bill will be going up by 30% later this year. At the same time, big Republicrat donors like the Simons, Irsays and Georges get sweetheart tax deals. I'm by no means rich, so this affects me greatly. But, I guess for those who don't work and make a career of living off others, that doesn't matter.
  • Senator Bizzarro
    From the story: "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." So, he's going to substitute a poll on his website for an actual referendum of all eligible voters. Yeah, that makes sense. And here I thought Indiana was behind the times. A poll on a Senator's webpage is way more advanced than a silly old-fashioned referendum, what with them old paper ballots and all.
  • wow!
    I am at a loss to understand some of the negative comments on mass transit. It almost seems that some folks have never left the state to see what works in other cities our size. Does anyone think that central Indiana Hoosiers are so unique and so different that mass transit is something that we should never allow the citizens to vote on? Perhaps we should spend another $500 million to widen I465 on the west side as soon as it gets conjested again. Senator Kenley is hearing, in my opinion from the NIMBY's and is not hearing from the many silent supporters.
  • Wow
    I'm amazed at, and dissapointed by, the number of you who just don't get why mass transit is so important! Sometimes I regret my decision to come back to Indiana because the mentality here is just so backwards and "small town". I can't wait til Kenley finally gets voted out of office!
  • Kudos!
    Mr. Kenley, Thanks for dropping your support of this ill conceived legislation! We had to wonder with the issues facing our state why the legislature was even wasting time on this right now. Those of us "way out there" in counties outside the donut counties don't even have roads we can drive on and we are not getting state help. "Local Control" is not the same as "Local Funding." Socialists want us to believe "build it and they will come" but they will NOT come in sufficient numbers to make this project viable without extensive taxpayer support. Marion and Hamilton County taxpayers will not be able to support it forever and eventually taxpayers throughout the state will end up having to bail this Albatross out. That will make even less transporation money available for everyone else. The ones that benefit the most are the contractors and promoters. Thanks for seeing the light ! Hopefully others will as well and save us all a lot of trouble. JD
  • This is a Joke
    You are severely misinformed if you think this is about local control. It is about large contractors and engineers pushing for big money contracts and local politicians salivating at the chance to lay out large contracts in return for large campaing donations. The Marion county TAXPAYERS (those RESIDENTS who actually will pay for this) have no voice in the matter. Too much public money is being filtered to the campaign in favor of it. Same thing happened with Wishard.
    • stepping up to the plate
      Congrats to Sen. Kenley on taking a stand. Mass transit is a major mistake for the area. Kenley is right to be concerned. The sheer fact is that this is central Indiana. As stated in so many posts, people here like to have control and privacy. A major part of that control is control over speed, route and who you sit next to on the bus/train/tram, etc... Simply put, although it feels good to talk about mass transit, it will never fly because, painted broadly, Hoosiers simply will not give up the privacy and control offered by driving themselves. As for the argument that mass transit is for the poor: the cost of building such a system in a low density area like ours will simply overwhelm its sustainability. The longer the system is in place, the more and more it will cost. And it WILL get to the point where the folks that it is supposed to be helping will not even be able to afford to use it. So, I repeat, bravo Sen. Kenley, Bravo.
      • County by County
        Marion County wouldn't dictate what happens to Hamilton County. The referendum would be held county by county only after the local officials vote to put it on the ballot. No one is forcing anyone to do anything.
      • Stop the hand-wringing
        This is a done deal, so stop the charade that this is a fair fight. Workers who pay taxes are outnumbered in Marion county, plus the pro-transit crowd is receiving federal grant money to fund an expensive PR campaign. Add on top the influence of local politicians' big business cronies who will land big money contracts, and you'll have guaranteed approval of transit through a referendum. Marion county non-taxpayers will never say no to a free thing. Anyone paying for this has no voice and will easily be outnumbered at the polls. This is a very familiar joke on taxpayers, so please stop posting your fake outrage. Indianapolis is becoming less and less of an attractive place to Iive for taxpaying workers.
      • Please..
        let us vote. All the bill allows is a vote. What is more American than letting us vote!!!
      • agreed
        It should not be up to Marion County taxpayers and marion county legislator to determine the fate of Hamilton taxpayers as well. Especially those of us nowhere near the proposed rail or bus routes.....
      • Allow a public vote
        Pass the bill, republicans. Allow the local citizens to make their own decisions. That's the BASIS of your political beliefs. Any other vote is in furtherance of the nanny state.
      • The party of big government
        Senator Kenley is obviously a Democrat in Republican clothing. Will the tyrants of big government please let the people vote.
      • Local Control
        HB 1011 is all about LOCAL CONTROL, something a Republican State Senator should be in favor of. As an Indianapolis resident in favor of expanded transit options, all I ask of the Republican legislators is LOCAL CHOICE and LOCAL CONTROL over transit funding. It should NEVER be up to Suburban Republican legislators to decide what is best for Marion County and Marion County taxpayers. . That, unfortunately, is the price of Unigov: a bunch of people who couldn't find my neighborhood have final say on how our City County Council and Mayor do things here. Ugh.
        • Misguided
          It is unfortunate that senators such as Kenley refuse to understand the process we are in. Their approval of HB 1011 will serve to allow residents the option of funding an expanded transit plan. If he is uncertain that it is needed, then voters will vote no. It is not his option to declare the type of plan or what the plan may look like. I can only hope that more serious and professional senators will have a better understanding of what is in front of them.

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