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EDITORIAL: Let’s start regional conversation about taxes, the arts and more

April 6, 2018

IBJ has published two stories in the last month that are reminders of the importance of regionalism.

In our March 16 issue, reporter Hayleigh Colombo described how Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett is hoping to jump-start the debate about revenue-sharing options in central Indiana based largely on commuting patterns.

The goal is that the income taxes paid by people who, say, live in Hamilton County but work in Marion County would be split between the two locations. Currently, all revenue goes to the county where the taxpayer lives.

Indianapolis needs the money, particularly to repair its crumbling roads, which are used by those traveling into the city for jobs. However, understandably, state and local officials who represent suburban areas—which are most likely to lose revenue in the deal—are a little skeptical.

Then last week, IBJ published a story by Lindsey Erdody about the Lilly Endowment’s long-standing policy to keep its arts grants inside Marion County, denying groups in Hamilton County what could be millions of dollars in funding.

In that story, Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard, who is responsible for making his city an arts-rich community, said the endowment’s policy is “not a good regional approach.”

“This is a private foundation and they have the right to do as they choose,” he said. “But if I were a member of the board of directors making these decisions, I would include the entire metro area. I think that’s a better policy.”

We agree with both mayors.

Of course, the Lilly Endowment is a private organization that can do whatever it wants with its money. But Indianapolis is not an island. It’s part of a larger central Indiana community with growing suburbs that will naturally develop their own arts organizations that serve those cities as well as the larger region.

We encourage the endowment’s board to reconsider policies based solely on geographic boundaries.

But at the same time, we believe Brainard and other area officials should view taxation and so many other issues in a similar light.

Indianapolis must be a strong, stable city for the region to continue to thrive—and its suburbs must be vibrant as well. That won’t occur without in-depth regional conversations about taxation, transit, economic development and more.

We know the region is capable of such cooperation. We noted in an editorial just three weeks ago that central Indiana counties agreed in 2005 to raise food and beverage taxes to help fund Lucas Oil Stadium. And Hogsett and Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness are working together to try to win a second Amazon headquarters.

Let’s build on those efforts. Let’s recognize that our communities are stronger together than they could ever be apart. And let’s bring everyone into the conversation: state and local officials as well as leaders from business, education and the not-for-profit sector—including the Lilly Endowment. Let’s not wait too long: Our region’s future depends on it.•

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To comment on this editorial, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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