Thursday, April 02, 2009

Senate Appropriations Committee Delivers Middle Finger To Taxpayers

In a sign of just far out of whack the priorities of the Indiana General Assembly are, the Senate Appropriations Committee quickly approved a $47 million bailout of the Capital Improvement Board today on a 10-2 vote. Lawmakers had only just received the amendment proposing a doubling of the tax on alcohol, higher ticket taxes in Marion County on event admissions, food and beverage and lodging, in addition to a diversion of sales and income tax revenues expected to be generated from the new Marrriott convention hotel. Lawmakers didn't even wait to receive assurances from either the Colts or the Pacers that they would go along with the plan. In the case of the Pacers, the legislature has already rewritten their lease to have taxpayers pick up the $15 million in operating expenses for Conseco Fieldhouse--even before the CIB formally sits down with the team to renegotiate the lease. The lawmakers, on a wing and a prayer, are hoping that the Pacers and Simons each kick in $5 million to the cause. This passage of an online story from the Star's Mary Beth Schneider says it all:

The senators -- some of whom gushed about their support for the teams -- did not ask either man whether they would be willing to provide the $5 million annually that the plan calls for. For the Pacers, that's $10 million less than they pay now. For the Colts, though, it's a new bill that changes the agreements the team reached only a few years ago with Lucas Oil Stadium. Asked by reporters afterward, Polian said the Colts will continue to talk with legislators, but made no commitments.

If you read this blog, you are far more qualified to be voting on this bailout than the senators who sit on the Senate Appropriations Committee. If they couldn't come up with a single questions of substance for the billionaire sports team owners, then it is proof positive as I've previously reported that they have been bought off by the team owners through campaign contributions and free tickets to Colts and Pacers games. I feel like these people are living in a parallel dimension from the rest of us right now. Do they have any clue the extent of the economic pains average Hoosiers are feeling right now in this economic downturn? Do they really believe taxpayers are going to swallow all of these tax increases to subsidize the billionaire Simons and Irsay?

UPDATE: Let me qualify my comments about the Senate Appropriation Committee members. It looks like there was one senator asking tough questions, Sen. Lindel Hume (D-Princeton). The IBJ's Anthony Schoettle catches some good exchanges he had with the team representatives:

It's unclear how much support Kenley's proposal will get in the House and Senate. But Sen. Lindel Hume (D-Princeton) said he would refuse to vote for the measure until he had more information - especially regarding the Pacers' financial situation.

At one point, Hume asked Fuson about wayward guard Jamal Tinsley and demanded to know how much the Pacers were paying him not to play. Fuson said he didn't have those figures, but added that benching Tinsley, who has been dogged by off-court controversies including involvement in a downtown shooting, was best not only for the Pacers, but for the community.

"At this time with the economic downturn we have ... and every person is confronted with hardships, I don't think this is the time we should be going through knee-jerk policy-making," Hume said.

Hume demanded that Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard look for more ways to cut the CIB's $71 million budget. Hume then compared the CIB to American International Group, which the U.S. government is bailing out to the tune of $182 billion.

Ballard responded that the CIB already has cut $9 million from its budget. "They're running pretty lean, and they're looking to run leaner," Ballard said. "There's no good answer here."

Hume also asked for detailed financials on Conseco Fieldhouse and Lucas Oil Stadium operations.

Kenley said the Pacers and Colts have been open with their financial situation. But Hume said if that's the case, the information hadn't been shared with him. "We come to this meeting today needing answers," Hume said. "I cannot support what we have here before us."

Sen. Kenley once again exhibits his "I know more than you" attitude towards Hume's pointed quesions. Schoettle wrote, "Kenley told reporters last night that he had thoroughly examined Pacers financials, and said team records show operating Conseco Fieldhouse has cost as much as $17 million in some years." Oh really? So Luke gets to take a look at the books (since he did such a good job with the family grocery story business he inherited) and pass on the legitimacy of what is contained in those books and we're just suppose to accept his conclusions? What arrogance. On that issue of how much the Pacers are paying Tinsley, Fuson's memory may not serve him well, but according to local news reports, the Pacers have been paying out a balance of $15 million on his contract while he's banished from the team's locker room. Kudos to Schoettle. He has by far done the best reporting among the local news media on the issue of the CIB bailout.

Fellow blogger Paul Ogden has a rundown on the kangaroo court Kenley set up in his Appropriations Committee hearing this morning. Essentially, anyone who opposed the bailout was locked out of the hearing and unable to offer public testimony. Remember then-mayoral candidate Greg Ballard in 2007 standing with the public in expressing outrage when Bart Peterson's staff reserved most of the seating in the public assembly room to prevent the general public from attending the council meeting at which his budget got unveiled? Now, Mayor Ballard is on the inside locking us out. How much this man has changed.

8 comments:

Paul K. Ogden said...

I am so ashamed of our Republican legislators and Republican mayor, I don't know where to begin.

Diana Vice said...

Does this call for my naughty chair, paddle, or handcuffs?

Advance Indiana said...

Yes, I think it does, Diana.

Wilson46201 said...

You certainly seem to attract kinky women, Gary! Real Marshall "family values" types, eh?

Diana and Melyssa keep your blog so classy!

I know said...

The current events are just business as usual. There are other friends that have been given better treatment than the Pacer's and Colts.

The middle finger is a smoke screen to take your wallet from your back pocket. It has been done for so long they have no fear any longer of the normal everyday joe that pays the taxes and watches the legal thievery go on and on....

Put all that you know in a room and call it all out. Then the folks in Indiana will truly revolt!

HOOSIERS FOR FAIR TAX said...

Doncha think that we shall be giving the middle finger right back soon enough?

Ballard's election was just a warm up for this team. We're far tighter than we were in 07.

Imagine what we can do with the money we're going to get.

HOOSIERS FOR FAIR TAX said...

Wilson...so you know those who possess class never use the term "classy".

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