Mass-transit bill hits detour in Senate committee

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The Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee voted 12-0 on Tuesday morning to stall legislation that would give central Indiana voters the ability to choose if they want to pay higher taxes for expanded mass transit.

The vote approved an amendment to House Bill 1011 that would send it to a study committee, charged with producing a report by Dec. 15. The full Senate likely will vote on the amended bill next week.

"While I'm obviously not thrilled with the amendment, I'd rather have a live bill than a dead bill,” the bill’s author, Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, told the committee.

Ron Gifford, executive director of the Central Indiana Transit Task Force and Indy Connect Now, emphasized that there’s still a chance the original bill, or something like it, could emerge from an end-of-session conference committee, where House and Senate members hammer out their differences.

"It's always good to have a vehicle to work with in conference committee," Gifford said. "This happens a lot."

The bill would have allowed 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 study committee amendment comes after some Marion County Republicans, including Sens. Brent Waltz, Mike Young and Scott Schneider expressed serious reservations about the plan.

In a press conference after the vote, Young said he and Waltz had done their own research on mass-transit systems around the country. “This is the reason we think a study committee’s important," Young said. "Some of those didn’t fare very well.”

Marion County Republicans presented a united front in favor of the delay. Sen. Pat Miller, who co-sponsored the bill along with Sen. Jim Merritt, said she wanted to give her constituents a vote on the issue but also wanted to make sure they were voting on the best possible plan. She said she believed there still would be time to pass legislation in the 2014 session and put the question on November 2014 ballots, as planned in Marion and Hamilton counties.

Merritt noted that the study committee will meet longer and have a larger budget than most. “This is not your ordinary study committee to go to the bone yard,” he said.

Tax and fiscal policy committee members sounded skeptical about the transit bill. Chairman Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, asked Gifford whether members of the business community would be willing to pay some sort of tax to help pay for expanded transit. He put the same question to Greater Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Mark Fisher.

Both lobbyists said many business owners who support the proposal would be subject to the income tax themselves.

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, told Gifford, “You make a persuasive argument about why we need to proceed,” but he said there are still six “major items” that he wants to see addressed. He didn’t offer details on those questions.

Last month Kenley dropped his sponsorship of the bill, saying he had “never been too persuaded for the need for this,” and that a majority of his constituents opposed the plan.



  • HOV lane no Mass Transit
    Before we jump into tax increases and big disagreements about where the line will and will not run. Lets first simply try a HOV lane with no trucks like they have in many other cities across the country. It would be cheap, encourage car pooling and make transportation faster.
  • @ncb
    I'm not a Republican, but living in Hamilton County I often vote in the Republican primary because it is the only choice we have for local offices. However, I bristle at the notion of being a "registered Republican." Signed, A real person of this state
  • IndyCAN Meeting
    Susie, I too was at that IndyCAN meeting at the Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Carmel. I expected to hear a fair presentation of both sides of the issue. I quickly found out the organizers of the event had no interest in that. They were there to ambush a state senator and were willing to do whatever it took to embarass him and twist his arm publicly to support the mass transit bill. Sen. Schneider had agreed to the meeting when he thought it was going to be about an exchange of information and thoughts on the bill. Instead IndyCAN set him up by turning it into a rally and inviting the media. It was an embarassing spectacle by a bunch of people claiming to be "christian" but who apparently don't know what the word means.
  • The terminology may be wrong
    but the concept is correct, unvrsty07A; while we do not register by party to vote in Indiana, we DO have to make a choice (which is written down and filed by the county clerk) as to which ballot to vote in the primary election. Right or wrong, many folks consider that to be a party registration. Maybe if you got out of the ivory tower once in a while and met the real people of the state, you'd have understood that better.
    • 'Too Generous'
      I remember the traction terminal at Market and Illinois in 1953. Indy was a railhub in 1853. More like 1753!
    • Indeed
      The brain drain will continue. Not saying that Indy Connect Now has the absolute best plan, but why do we need a paternalistic state legislature to make that decision when the local voters and legislative bodies could do so?
    • of course
      ...and the brain drain continues.
    • NOOOO!
      I can't believe it! Now I'll have to keep driving my luxury car and going wherever I want, whenever I want to go there. I was so excited to sell it and ride some train / bus / ferry next to some hobo with tuberculosis! - Nobody
    • registered republican?
      Since you do not register to vote by party in Indiana, it is not possible to be a registered republican.
    • Not good
      Mass transit supports job growth, enhances regional planning and supports the environment. It enhances tourism by making it easier for visitors to navigate and easier for lower-wage workers to access jobs. Indiana sprinted past other midwestern cities since the 80's and 90's because Unigov allowed for the region to be competitive. Now growth has expanded the definition of "regional" beyond the Marion County line. Regional transit that connects the airport, commercial districts and residential areas is essential to the economic viability and residential livability of Central Indiana.
    • Not good
      Mass transit supports job growth, enhances regional planning and supports the environment. It enhances tourism by making it easier for visitors to navigate and easier for lower-wage workers to access jobs. Indiana sprinted past other midwestern cities since the 80's and 90's because Unigov allowed for the region to be competitive. Now growth has expanded the definition of "regional" beyond the Marion County line. Regional transit that connects the airport, commercial districts and residential areas is essential to the economic viability and residential livability of Central Indiana.
    • Lots of "Geniuses" on here!
      Maybe that title was a bit harsh but once again, Indiana is stuck in 1953 not 2013. SUSAN: I am a registered Republican, too. However, the Tea Party faction has made a point of standing for wealth - basically the "I have mine, so phooey on you" group. I am embarrased by the lack of compassion. DANIEL - since mass transit is so unecessary, do you want to give a ride to the tens of thousands who have to rely on rides with others, since public transit doesn't exist in every area. Do you want to loan them your car? ESTA Yes the 8 folks may look funny but can you tell me of a city that has built a rail system that has NOT experienced meteoric growth? Where the hubs are and the lines pass trhrough are magnets for development and other areas want in. Times are changin' folks and once again Indiana is 50+ years behind.
    • Ultimate cost
      I am a resident of Fishers who attended last night's meeting at Pilgrim Lutheran Church. I am very much in favor of some kind of improved mass transit plan. I was somewhat offended by one person's blanket statement to the effect that "Republicans don't care about what helps those in need." As a registered Republican, I attended the meeting with the express purpose of giving a voice to those without one, those whose lives could be most impacted by the decision one way or the other. I pay taxes also and want to be sure that money isn't just dropped down the proverbial "rabbit hole"; however, I believe the ultimate cost for all of us in the Indianapolis area will be greater if we fail to come up with a mass transit plan that will benefit, not only business partners, but also those who need good, steady jobs to become productive members of our communities and tax payers as well.
    • Not big enough
      I have lived in some large cities and seen heavy traffic. Indianapolis and the surrounding areas do not have heavy traffic (I-69 and HW-31 expansions are also unnecessary!). Mass transit is pretty much a waste of money for Hoosiers - nice to have but unnecessary. There are many better things money could be spent on.
    • Defending Indy
      The 12th largest city in the country, I think that was the ranking. Held hostage to the state legislature at every chance to jump into the 21st century. No comprehensive transportation plan, impossible in this day and age to have a non-smoking ban of real meaning; writing discrimination into the state constitution, etc., etc. Yes, this is really going to work in the long term and attract the kind of businesses that will bring growth and prosperity to the city! I think NOT.
    • It's Buses Stupid
      If you read the plan it is mostly expanded bus service. That is not what most people think of when they think of mass transit, and they probably would not be willing to pay higher taxes if they knew this.
    • I'd hold the phone on it too
      Although I see the benefits of mass transit to a certain extent (for example, it's safer to Text or Talk & Ride), but with the country on the verge of bankruptcy (oh, I forgot - they just have to print more money) and that IN right now is operating at a surplus, we need to protect our buffer as much as possible. This (like I-69) will cost a lot more and take a lot longer than any of the estimates. We are NOT THAT big a city and those who will have to pay for this are likely to be the ones who'll still drive everywhere and they will need that money to pay for the "affordable" health care act first.
    • Election 2014
      So the politicians who we voted for are voting to not allow the citizens to vote on whether or not we want mass transit? Sounds like it's time for some new representation.
    • Too bad...
      ... that so many of our elected officials are so completely out of touch with reality. No other city our size has such a woefully inadequate transit system. In fact, many cities much smaller have better systems in place than we do. I'm sorry, but anyone who says they've “never been too persuaded for the need for this,” doesn't need to be serving the people.
    • Rendering
      I love the fact that the rendering shows 8 people waiting for the train. I think even that is an overly optimistic portrayal of ridership.
    • wow
      The Ruralpublicans have done it again: shoot Indianapolis in the foot. And knees, for good measure. Do they not understand that the city and its suburbs are the only growth engine the state has right now?

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