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Senate rolls out central Indiana mass-transit bill

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Advocates for expanded mass transit in central Indiana will focus on a Senate bill that gives counties a way to generate more tax dollars to pay for better buses and more routes.

Senate Bill 176, authored by Sen. Pat Miller, R-Indianapolis, and Sen. Brent Waltz, R-Greenwood, would allow five counties and their officials to create their own mass-transit plans. It specifies Delaware, Hamilton, Johnson, Madison and Marion counties, but Miller said that other counties would be given the opportunity to adopt their own plans as well.

The bill requires 25 percent of the funding would come from public-transportation fares, 10 percent from taxes on larger companies, and the remaining 65 percent from local income taxes. Miller emphasized that voters would be informed – through referendums – of the use of tax dollars.

Miller believes the new bill is essential in reaching her goals for the state.

“My ultimate goal is to see high-quality transportation in metropolitan areas, particularly Indianapolis,” Miller said. “I want to make sure there is readily available, easy bus transportation and all mass transit is readily available.”

SB 176 replaces a mass-transit bill introduced in the House by Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel. But Torr says the bill wasn’t necessarily meant to pass.

“The bill I filed in the House, we didn’t plan to move,” Torr said. “I filed it as a symbolic gesture.”

Torr, whose $1.3 billion plan included a different funding mechanism and the possibility of light rail lines, believes the new proposal is much different than his, and isn’t fond of the new taxes that could be put in place.

“The two plans are significantly different,” Torr said. “The tax structure is different. It includes a new corporate tax that makes up about 10 percent of funding, and I’m not particularly thrilled with that.”

But Torr isn’t completely disappointed in the new bill.

“It’s a good starting point,” he said.

One of the groups in support of the bill is the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce. Vice President of Government Relations and Policy Development Mark Fisher said a solid mass transit is essential to the state’s job market and the livelihood of the cities.

“We have a system that’s doing it’s best with the resources given. But it’s an issue of job access for employees and it’s an issue of employers’ access to qualified employees,” Fisher said. “Mass transit will allow cities and towns to reinvent themselves.”

The bill was given to the Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee for review.

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  • Mixed
    In an attempt to truly understand all of this, I just read the Indy Connect Plans. I assume this is the most recent information. However, I have been unable to find studies that indicate who will use this system. I cannot find data that says how many will use this system. From memory, this began as a train project and now we are saying we only need a really fast long bus. I will continue to search for more info. I will probably be dead by the time any of this comes to my area. As of now, I simply do not approve of using Federal, state, or my local tax dollars for this. People in Omaha or Fort Wayne should not be funding our trip to work. Make some friends and carpool.
  • A Terrible Plan
    Once again, IN lawmakers have shown their ignorance and their inability to move this state and major city forward. The ban on light rail is a doomed plan, and keeps Indy and the surrounding area about 40 years behind other major cities in this country. This has to be the worst group of IN lawmakers that I have seen in my lifetime. This won't connect anyone because people on the North Side will not ride buses. There are so many mistakes and miscalculations in this bill, it is an embarrassment. I encourage all voters to vote it down and maybe, someday, some year, we will get a group of lawmakers in there, who know what they are doing. Jut tell stranded commuters, stuck in Indy during the next snow storm, just why there wasn't a train that could have gotten them home. And tell them what happened to all of the taxpayer money that was spent in its implementation, why their money, surveys, and work already done, was just tossed out of the window. Tell a dying Union Station why trains didn't roll into there, breathing new life into the building. You have really blown it this time.
  • Tax nightmare
    I'm not entirely against public transportation. I'm not against some level of taxpayer support, since all roads are publicly maintained. But I am against wasting my tax dollars to create an albatross that will never be self-sufficient. Indianapolis will never have an efficient public transportation because the city is impossibly spread out. There is no plan for development that allows public resources like fire and police to be allocated efficiently. Whenever a new housing or retail development is approved by zoning, does anyone consider how police and fire are being stretched even further, nevermind bus service?
  • Taxes pay for the society we want
    Exactly! If that's the way you feel, please stop charging me taxes to pay for schools since I don't have children either.
  • It's called a referendum
    "So the voters will be INFORMED when they steal our money. I thought this was a democracy. Shouldn't the voters VOTE before we allow them to steal our money?" Considering the outcome of this legislation is a referendum allowing people to vote directly on this, I think that qualifies, don't you? But even if it weren't a referendum, we don't live in a pure democracy. We live in a republic where we elect representatives.
  • Fuzzy math
    "Should be funded at least 50% from fares and none from taxpayers." Assuming that we do generate 50% of the funding from fares, where would the other 50% come from if not from taxpayers?
  • No understanding of transit
    "Being against using income taxes for intra-county mass transit is not the same as being against mass transit, just that the people who use mass-transit should be the ones paying for it." So who are the people who primarily use and most desperately need mass transit? Those who cannot afford a car. Of course there are a lot of other good reasons to use mass transit, but what you're essentially saying is that we should charge unsubsidized fares...which has never ever worked anywhere. Who's going to pay $5 to $10 each way (especially among those who can't afford a car) just to ride the bus? That makes no sense, and I'm not aware of any mass transit system anywhere in the world that operates that way.
  • No income taxes to pay for transit
    First of all, the roads are paid for with fuel taxes. Second, being against paying taxes for something that does not benefit the actual residents is wrong (something about the Boston Tea party comes to mind), and thirdly, just being against using income taxes for intra-county mass transit is not the same as being against mass transit, just that the people who use mass-transit should be the ones paying for it.
    • transit
      I am so sick and tired of the fools that complain that they don't want to help pay for mass transit since they won't use it. Guess what, I hardly ever use the interstates, why should I pay for that. I don't have any children, why should I pay for schools? It's called living in civilized society.
      • It is our problem!
        Transit!, it is our "the Taxpayers" problem! From what I'm gathering, you don't use it so you shouldn't pay for it. Well then, should we make ALL roads in the state toll roads? I'm a tax payer and I use mass transit. I do not use the interstates so should I not have to pay for them? Mass transit is part of our infrastructure just like the roads and interstates are. We ALL benefit from them. That's why we live in a society.
      • NOT the Taxpayers problem
        I agree, but only if we stop spending sales, property, and income taxes on road construction and maintenance too. As a reminder, only half of road costs are paid for by user fees/gas tax.
      • Who needs transit?
        Yep. We can just keep subsidizing free parking (and more driving) through required parking minimums and let those who can't afford, or don't want, to drive everywhere to eat cake (or fumes). And more importantly, we can reinforce our image as being backward thinking by trying to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, which isn't even legal now. Way to go Indiana!
      • Nonsense!
        With 65% of the funding coming from increased local income taxes, the taxpayers who actually live in Marion county will have the privilege of paying for the transportation costs for those people who live outside Marion County. Great idea Pat Miller! A pox on all of the representatives who support this nonsense.
      • NOT the Taxpayers problem
        Should be funded at least 50% from fares and none from taxpayers.
        • Informed means referendum
          The article says, "voters would be informed – through referendums – of the use of tax dollars." A referendum means that we will be able to vote yes or no to a % tax increase. The amount of % increase can be at a minimal 0.1% and a maximum 0.25%.
        • Democracy
          So the voters will be INFORMED when they steal our money. I thought this was a democracy. Shouldn't the voters VOTE before we allow them to steal our money?

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