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Mass-transit supporters hopeful for compromise

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Supporters of competing plans to expand mass transit in central Indiana say they’ve got differences to work out before the General Assembly wraps up March 14 but they’re confident they can find resolution.

The House and Senate have passed similar versions of legislation to allow five counties to raise individual income taxes – with voter approval – to fund more buses and routes.

The bill is headed to a conference committee where two members of the House and two from the Senate will try to work out a compromise.

“My ultimate goal is to see high-quality transportation in metropolitan areas, particularly Indianapolis,” said Sen. Pat Miller, R-Indianapolis, the author of Senate Bill 176. “I want to make sure there is readily available, easy bus transportation, and all mass transit is readily available.”

As passed by the Senate, the bill would also have authorized a corporate income tax increase that would fund about 10 percent of the total cost of expanded mass transit. That version of the bill also banned local governments from using the increased revenue to fund light rail.

In the House, lawmakers dropped the ban on light rail and stripped out the corporate income tax increase.

Miller said the conference committee discussion will focus on the light-rail ban and proposals to exclude rural townships from paying taxes for the project.

Miller says she can’t predict an outcome until the bill’s legislation is finalized. But the bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, expects the bill to pass.

“We had a fairly close vote in the House, but I think some of the things we’re talking about doing may help pick up one or two votes.” Torr said. “I suspect we’ll have an agreement on whatever the conference report will come up with.”

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