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Council set to begin debate on proposed transit tax

January 8, 2017

Marion County residents won’t have to wait too much longer to see whether a proposed transit tax will become a reality.

The proposal begins its journey through the governmental process this week, and Indianapolis City-County Council is set to vote on the matter Feb. 27.

In November, voters approved a referendum authorizing council to impose an income tax of up to 0.25 percent—25 cents per $100 of income—to help fund the Marion County transit plan. This plan includes $390 million in service improvements—extending hours of operation, running buses at more frequent intervals, and running every route seven days a week. The transit tax also would help fund the operational costs of three rapid-transit lines, which feature buses that run more often and make fewer stops.

A 0.25 percent tax would work out to $125 in additional income taxes for a resident who earns $50,000 per year.

A proposal to adopt the full 0.25 percent tax will be introduced at Monday night’s council meeting. But the real debate will take place in weeks to come, as the proposal is heard by a number of different council committees before a public hearing and vote by the Rules Public Policy Committee on Feb. 21. The full council is expected to vote on the issue Feb. 27.

Council President Maggie Lewis, who supports the referendum, said the multiple committee hearings will give council members and members of the public chances to hear about the proposal and ask questions.

“On big projects, I try to ensure that several committees have the opportunity to hear the proposal and weigh in on the process,” Lewis told IBJ. “It [transit] touches a lot of committees and a lot of folks.”

Lewis said she’s confident the tax has enough support to pass council, but she noted that some council members are staunchly opposed to the tax.

“It will make for a very interesting debate,” she said.

If the transit tax is approved by council, the proposal goes to Mayor Joe Hogsett, who has 10 days to sign it into law. Or he could veto it, after which council could hold another vote in an attempt to override the veto, Lewis said.

If the transit tax passes into law, it would take effect Oct. 1.

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