Tax commuters for marketing?

February 24, 2009
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How do you feel about taxing commuters to supplement promotion of the cityâ??s convention industry? The idea was floated in an article by IBJ reporter Anthony Schoettle about the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association asking for more money to attract events to the expanded Indiana Convention Center.

The ICVA wants $3 million to $5 million more a year from a major funding source, the Capital Improvement Board, which has its own financial problems operating Lucas Oil Stadium and other properties.

City-County Council President Bob Cockrum suggested a tax of 0.25 percent on incomes of people living in outlying counties but working in Marion County.

Past discussions about a commuter tax have gone nowhere for fear of driving more businesses out of Marion County. Yet, Indianapolis officials point out that surrounding counties benefit plenty from their proximity to Indianapolisâ??and scarcely lift a finger to help.

  • *scarcasm* yes, i SHOULD pay to go to work. isn't that the American dream?
  • Guess what, your paycheck already has payroll taxes taken out for your designated work county even if you reside in a different county.

    I don't know what Bob Cockrum is thinking. Maybe he is just wanting to raise the Marion county payroll tax and present it as a tax increase on outsiders.
  • Scuse me, but we already pay inflated restaurant taxes to help pay for LOS and Conseco Fieldhouse. So how does that equate to scarcely lift a finger to help?

    Anyone who suggests new taxes in the current economy ought to have his or her head examined. We didn't create the CIB's problem, don't ask us to bankroll their way out of it.
  • I'm inclined to agree that surrounding counties do their part already with the new food and beverage tax. We weren't asked if it was OK to build the billion dollar stadium, but now we are expected to contribute to the budget shortfall. Hmm?
    However, that said, certain jobs in Marion County should benefit from the improvements to the infrastructure, so adding to a type of County Option tax on income might be a consideration. That said, all the donut counties already have this tax and I think if you work in one county and live in another--your home takes precedence so this would mean a 'new' type of payroll tax if it only applies to commuters who work in Marion and live in Carmel for example.
    I doubt that adding 33% more staff to the convention bureau by adding 7 people will do anything more than increase their costs. The new director needs to be much more creative than adding people.
    While the experts like to say that thousands of dollars flow to the economy with each convention, those numbers are hardly easy to document. The conventioneers stay downtown--they don't drive over to shop and eat in Plainfield!
    That said, those who make the big dollar salaries in Marion County probably have some responsibility to support better infrastructure--but unfortunately that will also affect the people making minimum wage working at the hotels and restaurants. Glad this isn't my problem to solve.
  • The CIB-ICVA-IDI model is duplicative and antiquated in this enlightened age. Their bloated budgets are an affront. Wake up, Indianapolis! A good candidate for re-structuring.
  • Taxes are never an easy topic BUT the surrounding counties (an artificial boundary dating back to a distance traveled by horse to/from government center) have been the beneficiary of Indianapolis for entirely too long. Unigov was a great first effort that has never gone to its fullest potential. Do you really believe that the lower surrounding county taxes are because they are such a terrific economic engine standing on their own? Care of the poor and poverty stricken typically falls to the larger and core cities of a region. Regional assets cluster in the core but are shared to the region. Carmel isn't Carmel without Indianapolis. Same for Greenwood, Avon, Shelbyville, Franklin and every other suburban region. I don't know about you but I don't care to find out what happens again when our core community - Indianapolis - stuggles like it did in the late 60s and 70s.

    Don't let facts ruin a good emotional moment. Don't let emotion ruin a great city. Let's create a great dialog to discuss what matters to the region...all of our collective sustainability depends upon it!
  • I can (and frequently do) make a better argument for suburban wage taxes for real infrastructure: streets and sewers, public safety, etc. Marion County most definitely subsidizes suburban commuting.

    When the Carmelite drives to work downtown on Meridian or Keystone, it is on streets built, maintained, and cleared at my expense. I dig myself out of my residential side street while his property taxes pay for his cul-de-sac to be plowed. When the Fishers commuter has a wreck at Kessler & Binford, the Fishers police, fire, and ambulance don't respond...the IMPD and IFD do, courtesy of Marion County taxpayers.

    The dialog is overdue IMO.
  • Commuters already pay their share in increased hospitality taxes as well as the money they spend when they are in the city. Personally, I do a lot of shopping on my lunch hour in the city. That is money I could be spending in my own community. Increase my taxes and I'll certainly think twice about any revenue I spend while in the city. Those shopping trips could easily be saved until the weekend at home.
  • I agree there seem to be duplicate efforts employed by the ICVA and IDI that could be reworked to save money without sacrificing the city’s marketing muscle. I also agree that donut counties benefit greatly from their proximity to Indy’s civic and cultural resources. But I don’t agree we should punish commuters simply because they choose to live outside of Marion County. These commuters contribute greatly to Indy’s infrastructure and that fact far outweighs any perceived draw on resources.
  • Perhaps a Vehicle Mileage Tax (VMT) would be better like the one proposed briefly by Republican Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to work with infrastructure taxes. Then the CIB could utilize more usage taxes and demand more from the sports owners. Perhaps the Pacers can’t afford it but the NBA might want to do this due the ABA fees required. This should no longer need to be picked up by these teams. This is a national problem. The Colts could provide more money as well as possibly the NCAA.

    The VMT would be very effective and be able to reduce the need of Township Governments/County Governmental boundaries. Someone going from the south side of Marion County to Castleton should pay more than someone driving from Carmel to Castleton. The south sider is using far more infrastructure despite that they are not going from county to county. Now for all of those on this blog who dislike taxes (but seem to like services) a great way of getting out of paying this would be by riding public transit or biking.

    Then again, this would favor the downtowners who pay the high costs everyday – not just at the lunch hour.
  • Paul, those longer-range drivers already pay the state and feds for the interstate highways they use via the gas tax. It wouldn't be fair to tax them twice for the big highways. But there is no similar way to collect from the suburban commuters who drive Marion County's streets.
  • How about the Colts and Pacers pitch in to cover there own expenses and all these new or increased tax ideas are forgotten?
  • The gas tax would get abolished. This would be at the local, state, and federal level. Then the VMT system would be put in place so there would not be double taxation for the services. The different government structures would set the level. Maybe then the revenues can be shared within metropolitan areas instead of the Northwest Territory Township/County governmental regions. So, if you want to pay fewer taxes, you live closer to the places you go and thus more density is created. Obviously this starts to get tricky and ends up in a similar level to the problem of TIFs. If an area is successful -- they will have better transit infrastructure then an area that is not populated and possibly causing more trouble than now (maybe not). This of course is up for discussion.

    The VMT would be paid via a satelite feed or chip. You drive up to the gas station then the pump reads a running average of your mileage.
  • If you look at population density through the 9 county metro area, you'll notice that a majority of the high density areas sit just outside the border of Marion County. This is an obvious red flag that living just outside the county gives you the benefits you want (schools, taxes, etc.) and still the qualities that downtown Indianapolis provides. A tax to all surrounding counties should be considered because as it was previously stated, there wouldn't be suburbs without Indy. And Indy wouldn't be what it is today if not for the Pacers and Colts.

    I would suggest using some of those taxes to improve IPS, however. Many people live just outside of Marion County so that their children won't go to IPS schools. I am in the process of doing just that due to pressure from my wife and our families. I wish I didn't have to, since I love Indianapolis.

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