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.