CIB rescue bill moves ahead, awaits more debate-WEB ONLY

A Statehouse proposal that would allow Indianapolis to raise local taxes to save its cash-strapped stadium agency cleared the Indiana Senate yesterday as the debate over who should pay for the bailout continued.

The Senate voted 33-17 for a proposal to fund the Indianapolis Capital Improvement Board, which expects to be $47 million short in its operations of the city’s professional sports stadiums and Indiana Convention Center.

The bill would allow increases in Marion County’s alcohol, car rental, hotel and ticket taxes with the extra cash going to the board. The bill could face changes as lawmakers try to create a solution before the legislative session ends April 29.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley (R-Noblesville) had previously proposed doubling alcohol taxes statewide to help the CIB, a plan that would have meant adding an extra penny to the price of a 12-ounce beer, or about a dime to a bottle of wine. But the idea proved unpopular among many from outside Indianapolis, and lawmakers removed that part of the plan.

Now that much of the focus is on taxes inside Marion County, however, some Indianapolis lawmakers are raising objections.

Sen. Michael Young (R-Indianapolis) said he was looking out for “Joe Six-pack.” He voted for the bill so that it could keep moving through the General Assembly, but said he wouldn’t be inclined to support it as a final plan.

Sen. Jean Breaux (D-Indianapolis) voted against the bill she said needed tweaking.

“While I believe that it’s a good first attempt, I think that additional work can be done to make this better so that it’s less burdensome on the folks that I represent,” she said.

Kenley said he was trying to sort out exactly how the local alcohol tax would work since alcohol taxes are taken in at the wholesale level, not when a person buys a beer at a liquor store or bar. But he said the alcohol tax on Marion County was a “reasonable part of the whole package.”

The plan mirrors a proposal suggested by Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard for the board, which runs the eight-month-old Lucas Oil Stadium – slated to host the 2010 NCAA men’s basketball Final Four and the 2012 Super Bowl – along with Conseco Fieldhouse and the under-expansion Indiana Convention Center.

Ballard’s plan would cut $8 million from the board’s budget and ask the Indianapolis Colts and Indiana Pacers to contribute $5 million each. Neither team has agreed to pay that yet, although officials from both franchises have said they were willing to discuss it.

The plan would also expand a local Professional Sports Development Authority district in the city’s downtown to capture $8.8 million in sales and income taxes that would otherwise go to the state.

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