House speaker wants public hearing on Mile Square tax

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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)

Indiana House Speaker Todd Huston said he wants a public hearing on a last-minute law that was slipped into the state budget last year and set into motion a new tax on downtown Indianapolis property owners in the Mile Square.

That hearing would come in the next few weeks on a new piece of legislation that proposes doing away with the new tax and is slated to be considered by the House Ways and Means Committee.

Huston, a Republican from Fishers, did not endorse the legislation but said citizens deserve a chance to weigh in on the concept at a public committee hearing after being denied the opportunity last year.

“Frankly put, [the tax proposal] should have probably gone through the [committee] process like every other piece of language normally goes through,” Huston told IBJ on Tuesday. “This is our chance to do that this year.”

House Bill 1199, a one-page piece of legislation, would abolish the economic enhancement district that the Indianapolis City-County Council voted in December to establish. Under the law passed last year, the council’s action clears the way for the creation of a state-city board that could impose a fee on Mile Square property owners to help pay for a low-barrier homeless shelter, homeless outreach, downtown cleanliness initiatives and safety ambassadors.

The bill was released Monday night and is authored by Rep. Julie McGuire, a lawmaker from southern Indianapolis who was elected in 2022, and co-authored by Rep. Mike Speedy, R-Indianapolis, and Rep. Jeff Thompson, a Lizton Republican and chair of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Thompson said he plans to schedule the bill for a committee hearing in the coming weeks. “We’re going to look at it, hear it and talk about the results,” he told IBJ.

McGuire told IBJ she filed the bill after hearing concerns about high property taxes from property owners and groups such as the Indiana Apartment Association. The law setting up the new tax was passed by the Legislature with the support of the Indy Chamber and Downtown Indy Inc., which currently provides many of the services that the tax would pay for with federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act provided by the city.

McGuire argues that private donations should pay for the services.

“Downtown Indy Inc., is a nonprofit, and if they want to raise funds—if all these businesses want it like the Chamber is talking about—they can write a check to Downtown Indy and do this work,” McGuire said.

Opponents of the tax have an influential ally in former Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma.

Last month, Bosma told IBJ that he was serving as the spokesperson for DefendDowntown.com. The website describes the organization as a “group of downtown residents and business owners who live or operate in the Mile Square” and oppose the tax, but it doesn’t provide a list of group members.

Bosma is an attorney and registered lobbyist. But as of last month, he said he hadn’t decided if he would lobby on behalf of DefendDowntown.com. In the meantime, a Virginia-based group called the American Jobs and Growth Fund has been paying for Facebook ads on behalf of the opposition group that encourage people to sign a petition to help stop the tax.

While the proposal to undo the tax appears to have legs in the House, its reception in the Senate is more muddled.

Sen. Kyle Walker, the Lawrence Republican who worked with the Indy Chamber to get the tax mechanism inserted into the 2023 budget, told IBJ that he doesn’t support McGuire’s bill as currently written.

“I would be happy to entertain and support a bill that would perhaps codify further guardrails on the legislation, but I don’t support any repeal in full,” he said.

Sen. Ryan Mishler, the Mishawaka Republican who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee that would likely be assigned to consider the bill if it passes the House, said he hadn’t had a chance to review the legislation.

“I have no idea what it does and what they’re trying to do, but I’ll find out,” Mishler said. “Let me do a little homework on it.”

Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray declined through a spokesperson to comment on the measure.

Opponents of the tax argue that it will impose a financial burden on downtown property owners who are already struggling to fill vacant office, residential and retail space.

But supporters say the taxing district is the best way to continue funding downtown cleanliness and improvement efforts provided by Downtown Indy after the city’s $3.5 million infusion of ARPA funds run out this year.

Adam Burtner, vice president of government affairs at the Indy Chamber, said he was not surprised by the legislation but he was disappointed. He pointed out that none of the three lawmakers who authored the bill represent legislative districts that include the Mile Square.

“For this to be potentially repealed by folks that don’t have a constituency in Mile Square is problematic in the least,” Burtner said.

On Friday, the Indy Chamber and Downtown Indy launched their own website, Care for Mile Square, that highlights the potential benefits of an economic enhancement district and takes on  claims made on the Defend Downtown website.

In December, the Indianapolis City-County Council voted along party lines to create the economic enhancement district, and the measure was later signed into law by Mayor Joe Hogsett.

Under the ordinance, single-family homeowners would pay an annual $250 flat fee starting in 2025. Owners of commercial properties would pay nearly 0.17% of their properties’ gross assessed value, or about $1,681 per $1 million in gross assessed value.

Apartment owners as a group would be hardest hit by the new tax, contributing an estimated $1.87 million of the $5.5 million expected to be generated annually. The association represents 280,000 rental units throughout the state, including 5,000 in the Mile Square, according to spokesman Charlie Tinkle.

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25 thoughts on “House speaker wants public hearing on Mile Square tax

  1. Indianapolis is the biggest city in the US without a tax to support programming, cleanliness, homelessness reduction, etc. in its Downtown. I don’t see how anybody can – in good faith – complain about such issues Downtown while simultaneously coming out against this tax. At least without coming up with viable alternative solutions.

    Perhaps instead of a tax on the Mile Square, The State can start paying Indianapolis to make up for all of the land it uses without paying taxes. Many states have similar arrangements with their capital cities.

    Or maybe The State can pledge to stop distributing taxes generated in Marion County to other counties. Marion County is one of Indiana’s few net positive counties, and it’s net positive by a big margin. Would The State risk its surplus to stop unfair redistribution of money, though? (Unlike my first alternative suggestion, this one is rhetorical.)

    No matter what, though, we shouldn’t let a Virginia-based PAC dictate any matters in Indiana. Especially those regarding local taxes. Although, perhaps we have Indiana’s own James Bopp to blame. He shouldn’t have opened the dark money floodgates, allowing PACs with mysterious money to influence political matters across the country.

    1. “Homelessness reduction”–LOL.

      I’m okay with a city’s ability to levy taxes upon itself. I just question whether these “public services” will achieve even remotely what they strive for. Giving junkies a place to bug out may help divert the worst of the filth from the Mile Square, but it won’t prevent it. Junkies from all over will come to Indy since they know they can get away with their crap. It will achieve capacity almost immediately. “Not doing enough!” will become the predictable cry.

      Indianapolis had a clean downtown until the Hogsett administration. It was famously clean, in fact, and hosted one of the most successful Super Bowl experiences in history (amazingly mild weather helped). It somehow managed to achieve cleanliness this despite not having a special tax. It’s almost like a clarion call for more public services exacerbates the problem the public services are intended to address.

      As for the sham that public schools have become, well, I made my voice clear on that yesterday…and it’s the voice of a growing number of us hideous “anti-democratic” people. (And I was anti-voucher until around 2017.) If educators can’t withhold their own political preferences from the daily instruction of children, let public schools burn to the ground. Support for public schools is at an all-time low and the teachers/administrators have only themselves to blame.

      It’s not the taxing capacity for which some of us are opposed. On that regard I agree with the usual gaggle here. It’s how the money will be used, and the obvious result that it will just create…another justification for a newer taxing mechanism to fund more and more services.

    2. Yawn. The money is controlled by a board literally split 50-50 between the city of Indianapolis and statehouse Republicans.

      And you told us the South Bend low barrier shelter was junkie land which was directly refuted by the district of the place. Lauren, you’re a useful tool of the uniparty as you just can’t manage to see the strings. Because they don’t want public services, they just want more of their money which means the public needs to take it in the shorts. All they do is occupy folks like you with wedge social issues that keep you occupied and unaware.

      The change I’d like to see Indiana Republicans propose is making it illegal to live on sidewalks or public right of way as of January 2026. Then be ready in the budget cycle for the requests for groups to meet that need because they will all need to expand – homeless shelters and long term housing for those with serious mental health challenges.

    3. Hateful, dark Lauren strikes again. She’s spews negativity with every post.

      “…would abolish the economic enhancement district that the Indianapolis City-County Council voted in December to establish…”

      More Republican nonsense. State Republicans want small government but insist on tying Indy’s hands. Stay out of local politics. As long as Republicans remain in charge of the state, Indianapolis and its citizens will suffer.

    4. Love has no home here, Michael G! 🙂

      Big hearts, small brains. Perhaps the new motto for the United Methodist Church as it continues to wokeify into irrelevance?

      All I see when the finger-waggers come after me for my “hateful” attitude towards junkie scum is their childlike naïveté. They’ve clearly never had anyone close to them get zombiefied by addiction. Please, Michael, show us what a wonderful person you are. Take a few meth-heads into your home. You may not be rich, but you have more access to money than they do. Show us how big your heart is.

      It’s all almost as laughable as the notion that Ray Epps is a private citizen with no federal affiliation! Truly hilarious.

      If I were as clueless about human nature as Joe and Michael, maybe I’d be nicer? Too bad. I prefer honest meanness. Kindness means nothing when it’s undergirded by duplicity.

    5. As much as I must bore you, Joe, with all your yawns, it seems I get your dander up enough for you to respond over and over.

      There’s tough competition among uniparty stooges, but thinking a presser about the South Bend junkiehaven from the director is going to be accurate (when her financial interest is in good PR) really takes the cake. Every other low-barrier shelter in the country turns into a multi-block swathe of needles, soiled blankets, trash, rats, excrement, and stolen bikes or shopping carts. And these are places with much healthier public funding than anything in Indiana: places like Boston, Philly, DC, Seattle, San Fran, and of course the reigning cesspit Portland—which must have close to a dozen no-barrier shelters.

      When have I ever represented the uniparty, Joe? If the mainstream media (you know, sources you love like Vox and WaPo), say a person is bad or dangerous or “anti-democracy” my ears perk up because it’s obvious they’re doing something RIGHT. If Alex Jones—who at this point might as well be as credible of a scientist as anyone working for the NIH—is such a messiah for his bumpkin followers (who will walk off a political cliff if we let them), why does the uniparty try so hard to un-person Jones?

      As for “not wanting public services”, we all know what an amazing job the public sector does at anything and everything. I mean, those aforementioned cities are just Elysian Fields. And of course a bloated public sector never concocts new problems to solve as a means of justifying the retention of departments and workers financed by the hapless constituents, to whom it propagandizes to keep the useful idiots believing it’s not all corrupt. No, that would never happen.

    6. Yes, how dare the uniparty make Alex Jones pay for slandering the parents of dead six year olds. When you want to live in a world where there are no facts and no truths, and you can just hand waive anything you don’t like by saying “they’re lying” with no proof otherwise, I can see where slander and libel laws are problematic.

      Keep telling us you’re for the people, but just have to continually side with those politicians who offer you the joy of watching a poor person or an LGBTQ person get punched down … just as long as you give them more of your money. That’s how you’re being played.

      Go on thinking that the kids these days can’t buy houses because they’re all being bought by illegal immigrants. Ignore the massive expansion of corporations owning starter homes. The uniparty loves that they’re turning more and more Americans into permanent renters, and you’re stuck believing something that clearly isn’t true… because you ignored all the stories of homeowners getting outbid on houses because the news media who reported it just can’t be trusted.

      “Support for public schools is at an all-time low”

      “ Americans’ satisfaction with the quality of K-12 education in the U.S. has fallen six percentage points in the past year to match the record-low 36% reading on this measure, which Gallup has tracked for 24 years. In contrast, parents of K-12 students remain largely satisfied with the quality of the education their oldest child is receiving, as 76% say they are “completely” or “somewhat” satisfied, significantly higher than the 67% low on that measure from 2013.”

      Tracks with how everyone hates politicians but they re-elect their own incumbents at around a 90% clip and wonder why things don’t change. I’m sure the Moms for Liberty will fix all this after their next key swapping party or whatever they do behind the scenes.

      https://news.gallup.com/poll/510401/education-satisfaction-ties-record-low.aspx

  2. If we think private donations should pay for public services, great. Let’s roll back vouchers to private religious schools like St. Roch (where Rep. McGuire attends) at the same time. Let private donations pay for that school like they did the first 75 years it existed. If there is no public benefit to cleaning the streets and moving the homeless out of public spaces, surely there’s no public benefit to a Catholic education, right?

    Yet another Marion County legislator too cowardly to run for CCC or mayor…. who doesn’t have anything to offer Indianapolis but a bunch of no’s.

    1. LOL. Out of this article, Joe’s takeaway is to call out a freshman State Rep and the church she attends. Joe, where does Saint Andre go to church (and what are their views on gay rights?). CCC? Where do Vop and Maggie attend church, or do you only creep on Republicans?

    2. It’s not creeping on someone when they put it in their bio and the mailers they send you as a constituent, Chuck.

      https://www.indianahouserepublicans.com/members/general/julie-mcguire/

      I survived having John Jacob as my Representative and Julie McGuire is the replacement. She told me, directly, that road funding is a complex issue. Maybe if she finds it complex, she’d best find a different occupation than being a state representative.

      Chuck, you ever notice how replying to me doesn’t go all that well for you?

  3. This article makes me chuckle. The “preview” of this session was that it was going to be short with few controversial items and very few hearings. A quiet session. EXCEPT, of course, when the leadership wants to do ii on a law that was enacted LAST YEAR. I agree with the speaker that it should have had a hearing last year. However, the fact that some gristle gets into the sausage that you are making should tell the legislature to fix their process for the last 2 weeks of each session for the future. The legislature has already made and shipped last year’s sausage. Live with it.

  4. Seems to me, the city wants to clean up down town as a sales benefit, mostly to attract revenue streams for the state.
    This tax to the mile square contribute to the proposed homeless shelter is a blackmail ransom. And it won’t work. Look at East St and Ohio.
    First, I agree with Lauren B., you are not going to move the homeless out of the city because politicians are scared.
    What will end up with this nonsense will only push the problem as it stands to another area.
    I’ve written the mayor and city area counselor and governor. All quiete. No response. Shame on all of you.

    1. East Street and Ohio is basically the dwelling ground for people who can’t get rooms at Wheeler Mission or Salvation Army. Potentially because there’s not enough room, but probably not.

      The main reason the site of the old Maxine’s becomes such a sorry hotbed is because these folks were rejected for being too zonked out of their gourds.

      This is a San Francisco solution.

  5. SO thankful a majority of us don’t live in Lauren’s world.

    When, oh when, will the legislature stop being jealous of Indy’s success, and leave us alone?

    1. Maybe, just maybe, she is frustrated that there is a better way to manage and help the homeless. Maybe the resentment is at how we really don’t want to help this culture. What if we passed laws that disallowed the culture from just sitting on the sidewalk or off ramps panhandling. Maybe if we gave them similar choices as we have. We seem to be pushing the homeless to another area. just to get them out of the way. That’s like locking your children up in the basement rather than giving them the kind of guidance they are going to face in the world of recovery.
      I’ve I found them dead, helped feed them in restaurants, driven them to their shacks, even let them sleep in my home if i thought it was appropriate and safe for me. NONE, NONE want boundaries. Maybe if we showed them another way and let them make the choice rather than let them pan handle, Just maybe, there would be another outcome. We are building a new shelter but still have an extensive waiting list for homeless housing. We don’t have a manager or security outlined for the new shelter. Shouldn’t we be adults and have a complete plan prepared rather than find space for 60 inpatients with nowhere to put the ones on the housing list. I say again, drive down East Street and Ohio. You’ll see how the leaders are managing the problem.

    2. John: the shelter being proposed and the policies being enacted, are the result of reasoned, long-term planning and discussion.

      You act as if these decisions fall out of the sky. I know some of the folks involved in these discussions.. There are Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives…even some formerly homeless folks. The homeless issue is not single-faceted; it requires a large, multi-prong approach. It’s complicated. It intersects with Corrections recidivism, mental health, drug use, poverty…

      We all ought to be thankful there are smart people who can put differences aside and talk through the problem.

    3. Rick–

      And it’s pretty obvious you don’t live in that world. Which is why you push for stupid policies like low-barrier shelters.

      Do you live in Meridian-Kessler? Butler Tarkington? Forest Hills? Williams Creek? One of the other shielded neighborhoods where everyone’s got it so good that they fundamentally can’t imagine why middle-class people are a little more hesitant toward weakening core standards for decent, ethical behavior? Or are you way out in Carmel?

      You’re probably also far enough removed from reality to think that a trip downtown bespeaks “Indy’s success”? Trust me–downtown Indy isn’t exactly looking like a blue ribbon winner these days. But then, neither are most major cities. But then, they’re populated by oblivious bourgie folk like you.

      Yet again you prove why the depressingly sky-high urban crime rates evoke some level of Schadenfreude. By and large, it IS leftists murdering other leftists. Long may it continue.

    4. John, you are absolutely correct.

      But then you’re up against the mouth breathers like A R, who, when these solutions fail to improve homelessness conditions (as they are everywhere they’re implemented) will simply squeal, “We need more money!”

      The remarkably idiotic things that ExPeRtS have told us to do these last few years, and the obvious inefficacy of the results to those of us who are watching without partisan lenses (since these corrupt experts have indeed been both neo-liberal and neo-conservative) is the reason that more and more people turn to Alex Jones as a Cassandra figure. And the fact that the same expert-laden establishment seeks to deprive Jones of his microphone and every single last penny to his name, is what turns him into a martyr. Along with a few mouthy billionaires who do the same thing.

  6. I’d like to point out that there was an opportunity for the public to be heard on this issue. I attended the public hearing before the City County Council committee. There was an impressive array of homeowners, businesses, and civic organizations who spoke in favor of the EED. The only objection voiced was how unfair it is that those of us who own property on the Mile Square are asked to pay a fee that will benefit all of Central Indiana. We need these services, the EED is the best way to deliver them, and the community supports it as do our locally elected public officials.

    1. Yes, and you are correct: the Republicans are being hypocritical. Worse even, since at least the Dems in this context don’t ever pretend to want to shrink or decentralized government.

      But there are at least a dozen people here who, if you dare point out similar instances of a hypocrisy in the donkey party, will swarm you like a pack of rabid wolves as they claim immunity among the donkeys. And they’ll call you “far right” even if you routinely offer similarly harsh criticism for GOPers.

    2. Since the Republican Party doesn’t seem to have an actual published platform, one of the unofficial planks is now “own the libs”.

      Or as history from past state legislative sessions proves time and time again, poop on the state’s economic engine, Indianapolis, because “those people” might benefit.

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