Mary Titsworth Chandler: Mayor Hogsett’s plan injects fairness into road funding

Keywords Forefront / Opinion

DEBATE QIs Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett’s regional transportation plan workable?

TitsworthDuring his State of the City address last week, Mayor Joe Hogsett spoke to the undeniable reality of our increasingly interconnected region and the critical role of central Indiana as the economic engine for the state. Importantly, Mayor Hogsett also offered his own vision for how we might provide a sustainable, long-term funding stream for our crumbling road infrastructure.

Indianapolis serves as the regional employment center for the central Indiana economy. Approximately one of every four workers in neighboring counties commutes to work into Marion County each day—more than 160,000 people utilizing local infrastructure.

This economic activity is invaluable and should be celebrated—but it is also costly. As Hoosiers, we pay 100% of local income taxes to our county of residence, not the county where we work. When workers travel across county lines to take advantage of the job opportunities across our region, they are utilizing infrastructure and public safety resources within a jurisdiction that has limited tools under current state law to recoup those costs.

This tax unfairness isn’t unique to Indianapolis, but with the exciting increase in regional growth, the effect of the problem is magnified significantly: Of all vehicle miles traveled in the nine-county region, nearly half of the road usage takes place in Marion County.

As a result, Marion County’s road funding has been about a third of what is needed for more than a decade. There was a boost in funding in 2011, when the city sold its water company and sewer system, but those funds have long-since been spent. Last year, Mayor Hogsett and the City-County Council funded a four-year, $400 million infrastructure plan. But when these proceeds are gone, revenue for roads will once again dwindle.

Rather than ask for a tax increase or require regional partners to give up their current income tax revenue, Mayor Hogsett has proposed to set aside just a portion of future income tax growth in the nine-county region for a regional infrastructure fund. Using state data on the number of vehicle miles traveled by residents and visitors within each county, those funds would be redistributed based on the relative responsibility that every county in central Indiana bears to support the regional economy.

The results of such an analysis are revealing: Five of the nine central Indiana counties would see an increase in funding as a result of this plan.

Our neighbors in surrounding counties have other priorities and ideas for capital investment, and we join Mayor Hogsett in applauding this leadership. And we believe the local business and civic community has an obligation to help turn these discussions into action.

Since 1965, the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee has convened representatives from all sectors of the community to address the most significant issues of concern and areas for opportunity related to the progress of Indianapolis. GIPC will help to lead this conversation, convening members of the regional community to discuss solutions. That plan is being formulated now.

We appreciate Mayor Hogsett starting this important discussion with a dynamic proposal, listening to the many voices on this important issue, and leading through to a solution.•

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