Indiana House committee votes to repeal downtown tax district, offers county-wide income tax as alternative

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The city and Downtown Indy Inc. last month released renderings of what it hoped to create with Spark. (Courtesy of Merritt Chase architects)

The Indiana House Ways and Means Committee voted 15-9 Wednesday to advance legislation that would repeal the downtown taxing district the Indianapolis City-County Council approved last month to tax Mile Square property owners for downtown cleanliness initiatives, homeless outreach and safety ambassadors.

Nearly all Republicans on the GOP-controlled committee voted to send House Bill 1199, authored by Rep. Julie McGuire, R-Indianapolis, to the full House for consideration. As an alternative, the committee also approved a measure that would allow Marion County to impose a new income tax on all residents to pay for such downtown initiatives.

McGuire’s proposal would repeal a law the Republican-dominated Legislature approved last year in the waning hours of the legislative session that gave Indianapolis city government the authority to create the taxing district, which the Democrat-controlled City-County Council voted to approve in December.

The bill’s approval Wednesday came against the objections of Democrats, some downtown residents and groups like Downtown Indy, Inc., the Indy Chamber, the Indiana Sports Corp. and Visit Indy, many of which testified against the bill last week. Other opponents included the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, Elanco Animal Health Inc. and Salesforce.

Supporters of the legislation included the Indiana Apartment Association, the Indiana chapter for Americans for Prosperity and some downtown property owners.

Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, was the only Republican to vote against the bill.

Prior to the vote on House Bill 1199, the committee approved an amendment to a separate bill that would allow the Indianapolis City-County Council to impose a local income tax on all Marion County residents for Mile Square improvements, though Democrats characterized the olive branch as a hollow gesture.

The amendment came from committee chair Rep. Jeff Thompson, a Republican from Lizton who co-authored HB 1199.

“We got a Christmas present we didn’t ask for,” said Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis. “We’re sort of being treated like children.”

DeLaney was one of three Democrats who voted in favor of the amendment, arguing that he did so because he knew the committee would vote to do away with the taxing district. 

“This is what they call a Hobson’s choice, which means there is no choice,” DeLaney said. “I will vote for this so City-County Council can have this authority. If this is our only choice, I’d rather they have the choice, and I hope we’re not back here next year trying to deal with the homeless problem because we stiff-armed the city.”

Thompson said the income tax increase offered the city a different method to raise money for Mile Square improvements.

“There’s nothing requiring anyone to do anything,” he said. “I want to help out Marion County if they want to do that.”

In a statement released following the vote, the Indy Chamber said it will continue to advocate for the taxing district and additional strategies to invest in the growth and progress of Indiana’s capital city and economic hub.

Correction: An earlier version of this story used the incorrect name for a Hobson’s choice.

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49 thoughts on “Indiana House committee votes to repeal downtown tax district, offers county-wide income tax as alternative

    1. I don’t disagfree. Much the same as People for the American Way or The American Civil Liberties Union are basically signaling us that they stand for the exact opposite.

    1. Ha, yes…. highest crime, highest homelessness, highest poverty, lowest graduation, etc., etc., not to mention that last night, a 12 year old and a 17 year old stole a car (around 4am) and crashed it into a pole. What a great state that the Dems control.

    2. S.B. How is Indianapolis responsible for poverty, graduation rates, or the theft of a car by two juveniles at 4am? Maybe if the city had the powers of Home Rule, you’d have an argument. But it does, and you don’t.

    3. well SB – you forgot 45% of state GDP and somewhere around 90% of high paying jobs…

      But yes as in every single other state in America the highest crime rates usually occur within the concentration of wealth.

      Also, maybe if the state legislature would actually let us punish criminals we could resolve our crime issues?

      Indianapolis is under republican control at the state level – I am concerned you do not understand that

    4. SB – Lol you’re basically the Eric Andre meme. The State endlessly passes legislation specifically designed to hurt Indianapolis’s infrastructure, schools, transportation, housing, support programs, and let guns flow freely in our streets and then Conservatives are like, “How could Indianapolis have done this?”

    5. I still like Indy, and I think the State should butt out of local affairs that clearly affect nothing more than downtown. I think this despite the fact that I am tremendously opposed to some of the aspects of these initiatives, like the “barrier-free homeless shelter”. It’s a terrible idea, but if Indy’s constituents want to be a junkie hub, the State should let them. In fact, the State should be grateful Indy is so eager to take on this responsibility.

      That said, the moral blindfolds of people defending its numerous problems is a bit much. They really think the city is doing the rest of the state a favor. Yeah, I’m sure Chicagoans think the same way as Chicagoans gaze into their navels and the burbs increasingly face the crime problems that have spilled over from an almost completely lawless central city. And New Yorkers feel this way as they grow increasingly removed from a reality that is the remaining 95% of the state.

      The concentration of wealth is Hamilton County, Boone County, Dearborn County (outside Cincy). Marion County certainly has its share of money, but it also has considerable poverty, so I’d imagine really only ranks average among Indiana counties. (I’ll admit I don’t know how to find the exact rankings, but Marion County is definitely not in the top 10, while at least a 3 of the donut counties are.)

      Blaming state interference for Indy’s crime issues is just too much. Let me guess, it’s the state’s fault that Gary and South Bend have such high crime as well? Certainly not the leadership or constituents in those respective cities, or the dysfunctional and often corrupt management of public agencies intended to serve constituents’ needs.

      Buit the usual hard-line partisan defenders (Brent, Frankie, where’s Joe B?) will sit here and blame the State for crime–even though law enforcement (outside of State Troopers) is a municipal function. And 99% of Indiana’s municipalities, with their own law enforcement, have significantly lower crime than the three listed.

      Seeing this ideological defense of city’s obvious failings–and their eagerness to throw all the blame on the State–is enough to make many of us independents say, “Let the city implode.”

      And that’s probably what the GOPhers are saying at the State level. They may or may not hate Indy, but they certainly see the attempts to heal its dysfunction as akin to pumping perfectly good purified water into an aquarium with a crack the size of San Andreas.

      Playing victim and blame other people for the failings of initiatives that they preside over, while continuing to harp on their intellectual, moral, and cultural superiority. That’s precisely what we expect from the urban political machine. Keep murdering one another–just keep it in Indy (and Gary and South Bend), please.

    6. Brent B. – sure, Indy does not have the powers of “Home Rule”, with their partisan city county council, school board, mayoral office, etc., etc., etc. How can you possibly blame anyone else?

    7. JJ Frankie – What!? How does the Republican state legislature prevent the liberal Marion Co. prosecutor from locking up criminals? How does your mind work. Indy is a catch and release city/county; not because of the state, but because of the liberal city/county leaders. How could you even think otherwise?

    8. Here’s something else to consider.

      The original bill created a district that was to be governed, 50/50, by Indianapolis Democrats and Statehouse Republicans … meaning Republicans had a significant say in how this shelter would operate.

      So, now Republicans are going to trash that, tell the city to go raise income taxes on the entire city to pay for the shelter, and apparently walk away from having any say in governance as well?

  1. Republicans used to believe that government closest to the people was the best. No more. They vote against home rule time after time.

    These same legislators will complain about the homeless they see in downtown Indy, about lack of clean streets, and about any safety concerns. Yet these state legislative vote to deny the ability of local government to address these problems. If they want to govern Indianapolis, they should move here and run for local office, but in the meantime, they have plenty of STATE problems to address without meddling in our local governmental matters.

    1. Just like “chaos at the border”, state Republican lawmakers are happy to have homeless people, dirty streets, and crime in Indianapolis because it gives them something to complain about and a lot of people (like S B.) believe that this is reality and it’s out of control and keep voting for these politicians despite the self inflicted harm they cause.

  2. I love how articles like this ignore that Indiana’s Republican governor pushed for this tax to give Indianapolis a way to pay for a homeless shelter that a lot of groups asked for.

    It’s almost as though Republicans hate Indianapolis and have nothing to offer Indianapolis but a list of things they don’t want to happen. No wonder they get demolished in elections every 4 years…

    1. Yet without Indianapolis, Indiana would be another flyover state the likes of Nebraska or Iowa. Anytime Indianapolis tries to be ambitious, state legislators intervene to bully them around.

    2. The doughnut counties make up 50% state GDP. Indianapolis alone accounts for half of that! But, Indianapolis houses too many of “those” people and they vote Democratic, so to teach these ignorant voters a lesson and that voting Democratic is bad for them, they keep pooping on the state’s cash cow.

      I’m sure Republicans are in the back halls patting themselves on the back and telling everyone, “That will teach them a lesson!”.

    3. Julie McGuire was so against the downtown mile square tax that she instead ended up with a tax increase for her own Marion County constituents, none of who reside in the Mile Square.

      Must be a nice campaign check from the Apartment Association to sell out like that.

    4. The smug self satisfaction is seeping through the computer screen. As much as I want the State to butt out of city affairs, I also enjoy it when they give these people the side-punch to the jaw they deserve.

      Grant: people in Des Moines and Omaha are just as eager to sniff their own flatulence and think they’re the redeeming feature of their respective states. And frankly, so are New Yorkers, and they perceive as Indiana as just as much “flyover” as Nebraska and Iowa…and Illinois, for that matter.

      Meanwhile, the Democrats will continue to do more and more things that indisputably diminish the quality of life in Indy…and blame the State harder and harder. Rinse and repeat.

    5. Yawn. Can you get through one post without mentioning another state? Just one? You failed in literally every post. Every single one. It’s ponderous.

      A reminder in the most recent election, the Republican candidate wanted to do all the same things as the current mayor of Indianapolis, he was just going to do them in nebulously “better” ways.

      Put another way, he’s no different than you, who is no different than Pat Bauer, who liked to yell No! a lot. Which is why his party has been eliminated at the state level.

      Come up with alternatives. Try it.

    6. Joe my love–

      Without referencing other states, the asphyxiating levels of smug that you and your friends here emanate would have no context. I mean, you still show your ideological blindness with every single one of your posts, and I continue to remain sympathetic to the fact that the state is running roughshod over Indy’s municipal affairs. Yet that’s clear not good enough for you. You need 100% ideological alignment, which–good for you–you clearly have, in the form of Brent Wesley and Frankie and two dozen equally self-congratulatory city-dwellers.

      I will continue to lament the ongoing social collapse that is evident in most American cities right now–some worse than others (Indy not among the worst…yet). While recognizing that the ideological blinders that ensure it will continue to get worse for many, many years–even if the State government was largely in alignment with the principal city. You know, like it is in Illinois (doggone it, another state comparison. Shame on me!)

      As a reminder, I had no great love or admiration for the multimillion campaign of Jefferson Shreve. The best that can be hoped for is he’d be slightly less awful than Hogsett, at least if he did the things for which he campaigned–which were in lock step with Hogsett about 85% of the time.

      Maybe, in time, one of the junkies or thugs will finally sucker-punch your blinders off.

      Failing by your eyes is the highest of compliments.

    7. You’re not at all sympathetic. Stop pretending otherwise. You love watching people get punched down on. It’s your thing.

      if Indianapolis isn’t moving forward, it’s because it no longer has two political parties offering alternative visions for the future. You have what the Democrats offer, and you’ve got what the Republicans have to offer which is … exactly what? Selling off city assets? Sitting back and letting the rest of the state steal money from Indianapolis?

      I long for a Republican mayor with the guts to gamble like Bill Hudnut, who led the charge to build a football stadium for a city that didn’t have one even close to lined up. That could have failed like it did elsewhere, and he’d have been a laughing stock for it. He at least tried.

      Again, go ahead and tell us what “Democrats will continue to do more and more things that indisputably diminish the quality of life in Indy…” means. Be specific for once.

    8. Lauren finally admitted she doesn’t live in the city, yet she loves to opine about it. And, despite her supposed dissatisfaction with J Shreve as a mayoral candidate, she repeatedly defended him an his position Ms thoroughout that campaign. She starts every post with a small olive branch in a veiled attempt to show some empathy but then veers into he conservative ideology, while simultaneously berating those she disagrees with for being ideological. Typical Trumpian tactic.

  3. Republicans are a joke. They claim to want small government until it comes to Indianapolis. Then they want to meddle in local affairs. How hypocritical can you be?

    1. They never believed that, it was always a lie. Republicans are as big government as it gets. They want to control localities and control what people do in their bedrooms.

  4. I’m out of the mile square but feel it was not just to charge the mile square an upçharge tax to keep the streets clean. And how did they justify taxing the residents to pay for the homeless shelter?
    The homeless initiative was not made transparent until after RDOOR bought the land. I wrote the Mayor 6 letters with no response. How are they going to pay for it. And how will this new camp keep homeless out of the mile square. And how will they keep homeless from sleeping on the sidewalk in front of my home?
    What would you do if they announced a LOW BARRIER HOMLESS SHELTER next to you house?

    1. Maybe we should just build a low-barrier shelter in one of those vacant buildings next to Tarkington Park. Or the out-of-state slum-lord run properties in steadily declining Broad Ripple. Once HopCat leaves, that parking garage will need a new tenant.

      Joe, the only way those people on Shelby Street can sell the property is if they find a sucker who isn’t wise to the City’s plans. As long as there’s a probability that the City will go through with its Junkie Haven, the properties within a quarter-mile radius are worth nothing.

      Ayn Rand wasn’t an amazing writer. But she chronicled social collapse through collectivism quite brilliantly; she was speaking from her experience growing up in pre/post Bolshevik Russia. I never thought “Atlas Shrugged” would be a predictor of our own country’s future as the “experts” keep racing to correct their horrible ideas with MORE horrible ideas…but here we are.

    1. In their defense, you didn’t even try to find it.

      Here’s my idea – the state of Indiana gives Marion County its fair share of gas taxes so they don’t have to divert city funds to infrastructure. There, I found the money for the shelter.

    2. The State Tax Cap has been starving Indiana cities for tax dollars for decades. I don’t if you’ve noticed, because of inequities in the distribution of state gas taxes, Indy is just about $1B+ behind in road repairs alone. So, No. There’s not a lot of excess in the city budget.

    3. Do you have any idea how little money that is for 400 square miles and almost 1 million people?! The city is turning over couch cushions to try to keep things moving. By contrast, Minneapolis has a city boundary about the size of Center Township with ~400,000 persons. Their budget is $1.8 billion, more than double the funds per capita than Indianapolis in ~10% of the land area. “Just finding money in the budget” isn’t really an option here.

    4. A R–

      Given the state of Minneapolis in the 2020s, I wouldn’t say it offers too many lessons learned for Indy.

      Absolutely no one is stopping you from donating heaping amounts of your own personal earnings to the City government so it can continue to do So Many Great Things.

    1. It’s because they can.

      One of the quirks of UNIGOV is that Indiana has ONE “county with a consolidated city”, Marion County. It also has ONE “first class city”, Indianapolis. So the Legislature can and does make a whole bunch of laws for “a county with a consolidated city” or “a first class city” that pretend to apply all across the state when they don’t.

  5. “For my friends, everything; for my enemies, the law” even if we have to make a new one to go back on the one we made last year because it might have been helpful to my enemies. This is a really sad state of affairs.

    1. Ah yes–the MAGA creed. While the current DOJ keeps old ladies in prison for 3+ years who simply stood outside on Jan 6. Or felony charges (5 years in prison) for someone who took a paperweight. Kind of reminds me of how a certain political party treated civil rights leaders in Mississippi in 1961. Didn’t MLK spend a month in prison for going 1 mph over the speed limit? Which political party was than…hmmm?

      The rich elites are building bunkers because they see how badly the Tree of Liberty will need watering after they finish rigging yet another election this November.

      Got a lot of firearms, Chris?

    1. Dems only listen to uninformed good doers that think simply throwing more
      money at a problem is the answer. These same social justice people that
      have never owned a business or held positions of responsibility in
      the business world.

  6. The major concerns of our STATE legislature this year, so far:
    Traffic signs on several blocks in Indianapolis.
    How streets will be rearranged for a bus in Indianapolis despite the local voters approving it.
    Whether or not a tax can be implemented according to current state law to improve services in Downtown Indianapolis.
    Whether or not regulatory laws for pet adoption can be implemented in Indianapolis, Carmel, and several other cities.
    Whether or not another (cleaner) option for cremation should be allowed anywhere in the state. I threw this one in even though it applies to everyone in Indiana.  
    Whether one agrees or not with a specific issue, they were all enacted either by the local voters or their elected leaders. Our legislature is clearly not a “small government” body. This is a classic reason why every locale (city, state, country) should have a healthy (and competitive) rational two (or more) party system. That includes Indianapolis the city and Indiana the state.

    1. One correction to my post above… I should have said “all of the above, except for the cremation option, were all entitled either by the local voters or their elected leaders.”

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