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Mass-transit measure passes key House hurdle

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A bill that could allow central Indiana counties to create a mass-transit system cleared the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday afternoon on a 20-2 vote.

The bill would allow local voters to decide whether to add 0.3 percent to local income tax rates to pay for the proposed $1.3 billion system, which would offer twice the current level of bus service, a rail line from Noblesville to downtown Indianapolis and several bus-rapid transit lines. It also would create a nine-county transit district.

The earliest possible date for ballot issues in Marion and Hamilton counties would be the 2014 general election. An amendment introduced Wednesday makes the referendum advisory-only, meaning local governments would have to sign off as well.

The two "no" votes came from Republican Reps. Eric Turner and Jeff Thompson, who want voteres to weigh in on a township-by-township basis, rather than a county-wide referendum.

Turner said his rural Hamilton County constituents, who are less likely to use the system, deserve a chance to opt out of paying for it.

Thompson, who represents Brownsburg and rural parts of Hendricks County, argued that it could give transit advocates a chance to add the more suburban parts of Hendricks County to the system sooner. The plan currently doesn't include Hendricks County.

Ways and Means Chairman Tim Brown opted not to take a vote on the township-by-township amendment, giving transit advocates more time to consider the idea.

The House Roads and Transportation Committee advanced the measure last month.

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  • Come on, Joe.
    Actually its up 26% so that means the two people I see riding the bus have some part time help. Well worth 1.3 billion, and you know that's just the estimate. Nobody wants to ride public transportation because its like hanging out at the license branch.
  • Those Allowed to Vote
    I think that those who would be paying the increased income taxes should be the only ones allowed to vote on increasing our taxes. I know this will never happen but I'm tired of people who have no "skin in the game" being allowed to vote to increase my taxes. I feel the same way about property taxes. Only property owners should be allowed to vote on issues that would increase our taxes. As the old saying goes, the government who robs Peter to pay Paul will always have the support of Paul.
  • Facts
    The current bill would only authorize a referendum for Marion and Hamilton Counties. Marion can vote yes and move forward w/o Hamilton, but not the other way around. Further, only a county that votes yes would be taxed and the level of service within that county would correlate. Further, Indygo has seen a 24% increase in ridership since 2009 and nearly surpassed the 10,000,000 trip mark last year. That is 10,000,000 vehicle trips not in your way. This system is about necessary service, the bill would allow expansions o improve the existing service and create choices for others in the community. If you don't believe that people deserve the freedom of choice, then vote no.
  • what my taxes should provide
    Already Broke, Would you prefer to channel your tax dollars to Police and Prisons rather than local mass transit ? Perhaps I misunderstand.
  • Income tax too high already
    I already pay enough taxes. No one wants to go downtown and get shot by the gangbangers anyway. Let's vote on a billion bucks a year in more cops and prisons instead.
    • Bus Rapid Transit
      Bus Rapid Transit is an alternative to light rail with many of the same benefits at a much lower cost. The plan calls for bus rapid transit OR light rail on multiple routes including Noblesville to downtown.
    • Oh Brandon.
      Its all been done before why don't you learn.http://www.american-rails.com/indiana-interurbans.html
    • Yes
      Transit in the form of rail will bring visitors and residents. Learn about rail before you speak about it.
    • Vote No!
      Nick, no body in fishers or Carmel wants to ride a train to downtown Indianapolis. case closed. Ben, the nine counties that surround Marion county are the one that would pay, just like the restaurant tax. The people who will benefit from this will be engineers, construction companies, law firms, politicians, little you and me will be stuck with the bill.
    • Opt out?
      "Turner said his rural Hamilton County constituents, who are less likely to use the system, deserve a chance to opt out of paying for it." Can we apply this same logic to road building in the region? I would like to opt out of paying for building and maintaining roads in rural Hamilton County because I never use the system. This is only fair, right?
    • What are the 9 counties if Hendricks is not included?
      First, what other county that does not touch Marion is part of this plan? Secondly, why the hell would Hendricks not be included? The growth in that county is among the highest in Central Indiana. Absolutely absurd!
    • Away
      I think the rail portion of this is a long, long way down the road.
    • Please Vote Yes
      Please vote yes. IndyGo has not increased ridership in the last four years because it is a decrepit system that stops and slowly lowers its customers to the curb. If people on Keystone, up in Fishers, and near the airport saw a train fly by without stopping but 7 to 8 times in 30 miles of track, it would be a boone to intercity economic and environmental development. People don't enjoy buses. They like riding on rails. A train possibly powered by Indiana's biofuels would see ten times the traffic that IndyGo supplies. It's time to take on Progressive policies that create jobs and increase lines of communication and transportation while improving the environment. Next stop, highspeed rail to Chicago. It would be nice to see Indiana take the lead on the federal highspeed rail initiative. We are falling behind the infrastructure gains in the East. All of our rail projects, as evidenced by this week's earlier article, support MIDWEST jobs. Vote Yes!
    • Just say no.
      Don't let them do it. Indy go hasn't gained in ridership in 4 decades. This is just about the money. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indianapolis_Public_Transportation_Corporation#History

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    1. The deductible is entirely paid by the POWER account. No one ever has to contribute more than $25/month into the POWER account and it is often less. The only cost not paid out of the POWER account is the ER copay ($8-25) for non-emergent use of the ER. And under HIP 2.0, if a member calls the toll-free, 24 hour nurse line, and the nurse tells them to go to the ER, the copay is waived. It's also waived if the member is admitted to the hospital. Honestly, although it is certainly not "free" - I think Indiana has created a decent plan for the currently uninsured. Also consider that if a member obtains preventive care, she can lower her monthly contribution for the next year. Non-profits may pay up to 75% of the contribution on behalf of the member, and the member's employer may pay up to 50% of the contribution.

    2. I wonder if the governor could multi-task and talk to CMS about helping Indiana get our state based exchange going so Hoosiers don't lose subsidy if the court decision holds. One option I've seen is for states to contract with healthcare.gov. Or maybe Indiana isn't really interested in healthcare insurance coverage for Hoosiers.

    3. So, how much did either of YOU contribute? HGH Thank you Mr. Ozdemir for your investments in this city and your contribution to the arts.

    4. So heres brilliant planning for you...build a $30 M sports complex with tax dollars, yet send all the hotel tax revenue to Carmel and Fishers. Westfield will unlikely never see a payback but the hotel "centers" of Carmel and Fishers will get rich. Lousy strategy Andy Cook!

    5. AlanB, this is how it works...A corporate welfare queen makes a tiny contribution to the arts and gets tons of positive media from outlets like the IBJ. In turn, they are more easily to get their 10s of millions of dollars of corporate welfare (ironically from the same people who are against welfare for humans).

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