House committee mulls corporate contribution to mass transit

Whether to make businesses ante up for the creation of a mass-transit system they have pushed for will be a key consideration in House Republicans’ vote on the issue Monday at the Indiana Statehouse.

The House Ways and Means Committee on Monday morning took up Senate Bill 176, which authorizes central Indiana counties to pass tax increases for a regional mass-transit system, with four amendments. One of the amendments would require 10 percent of revenue for the system to come from non-traditional sources, not local tax sources or fares.

Indy Chamber lobbyist Mark Fisher said there’s nothing to prevent IndyGo or any future regional transit authority from being supported by private-sector donations, but he said, “This gives them more of a stick.”

What form that "stick" might take isn't spelled out in the proposed amendment, but Fisher said there have been discussions about using advertising, public-private partnerships to build transportation stops, or revenue guarantees, in which case a company might agree to buy so many passes each year.

Chairman Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, held off on voting, saying the Republican caucus wanted to discuss the bill, especially the issue of private-sector funding. The committee will convene and take votes later Monday.

The bill already passed the House Roads and Transportation Committee, which stripped out original language requiring 10 percent of revenue to come from a local corporate-income tax.

Other amendments before Ways and Means would remove the bill’s prohibition against the use of light rail; remove Hendricks County as one of the counties that may hold a referendum on the tax increase and join a regional transit system; and restore language about the extent of service available in a county.

The transit bill passed the Indiana Senate 28-20 earlier this month.

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