Is Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett’s regional transportation plan workable?
The long-term success of our region can be measured by the health of our people, our businesses and our infrastructure. The Central Indiana Council of Elected Officials, made up of chief elected officials from cities and towns in our metro area, has come together to tackle issues impacting these metrics.
For the last 18 months we have worked to assess the health of our region and compared our ability to compete with similar regions across the country. We commissioned a comprehensive study conducted by the IU Public Policy Institute that evaluated key metrics. The results were surprising.
The issues we face are much larger than potholes and commuters. The Indy metro is falling behind in educational attainment, median wage and the percentage of people living below the poverty line. In most of these metrics, we are either headed in the wrong direction or being outpaced by peer metropolitan areas.
To be sure, Indianapolis is at a disadvantage when it comes to funding. The city of Indianapolis operates on a much smaller budget than cities like Columbus, Nashville, Milwaukee and others with which it competes. In fact, compared to its peers, Indianapolis operates with $460 million less per year, on average per capita. But Indianapolis isn’t alone. Most communities in the Indy metro also operate on smaller budgets than our competitors across the country.
For Indianapolis and some communities in the metro area, less revenue means less ability to invest in the basics. It also means less ability to invest in infrastructure, talent attraction and place-making projects that can address the negative trends of slow growth, low wages and talent migration.
To tackle these factors and the overall health and competitiveness of the region, we developed a proposal to create a regional investment hub. The concept would foster collaboration among communities and allow them to raise revenue, 50% of which would be invested in the community it originated and 50% of which would be pooled in the regional investment hub to be spent on infrastructure projects that benefit the region.
Somewhat similar to the revenue-raising measure championed by Gov. Daniels to support the construction of Lucas Oil stadium, the proposal would give communities the ability to opt-in. For increased accountability, regional project investment decisions would be made by a regional governing body comprised of elected officials from the communities represented.
The regional investment hub proposal stands to benefit Indianapolis and the metro area far more than the commuter tax proposal. With regional investment hubs, Indianapolis will have new revenue to address basic needs, and it will also benefit from regional investment projects, many of which would likely occur in Marion County. Such regional investments could include improvements to heavily traveled main thoroughfares not funded by the state—or projects like the White River Master Plan.
The health of our region is dependent on the strength of all our communities. Advancing the regional investment hub will require us to stand strong, but it is the best course for the long-term success of our region.•
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