Monday, June 28, 2010

Ballard To Seek Tax Hike Next Year To Fund Regional Transportation Authority

Proponents of mass transit for the Indianapolis metropolitan area envision a state-established regional transportation authority encompassing Marion County and all of its surrounding counties that would be authorized to borrow and spend billions in the coming years to build a system of rail, light rail, expanded bus service and tolled express lanes on area highways. Mark Miles of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership told a recent meeting of the Indianapolis City-County Council's Economic Development Committee that efforts will be made to gain legislative approval of the proposed RTA during the 2011 legislative session. Miles told the committee it hopes to place a referendum on the 2011 November ballot in area counties to fund the RTA with either a local option income tax or a sales tax. He expects the legislature to recommend a local option income tax increase rather than a sales tax. Miles already is assuming that only Hamilton and Marion Counties are likely to approve it because they get the more immediate benefit from an RTA, but he said that's okay because taxes generated from those two counties will be sufficient to move forward with the regional transportation plan.

Because Ballard is already on record as saying he thinks we need to do what Miles is promoting, he will be put in the position of advocating an income tax increase at the same election he is asking voters to re-elect him to another four-year term. Ironically, Ballard largely got elected in 2007 based on voter outrage over Bart Peterson's 65% increase in the local income tax, a tax increase Ballard later made permanent despite his criticism of it and claims he made during the 2007 campaign that he would find cuts of $70 million in the city's budget to avoid the need for the higher tax. "There's a lot of fluff in that budget," he said at the time.

In addition to making the income tax increase permanent, raising hotel taxes to bail out the CIB and raising a host of fees on businesses, water and sewer rates have gone up substantially under Ballard's tenure and are expected to increase at least 100% and 300%, respectively, in the coming years. Ballard is pushing even higher sewer rates, a backdoor tax increase of sorts, by insisting that Citizens Energy pay the City $263 million in consideration for it assuming $1.5 billion in debt as part of a proposed transfer of the utilities to Citizens Energy. Citizens Energy has already said it will recoup that money, which it will have to borrow through the issuance of bonds, by raising utility rates even higher than already anticipated. Ballard wants to use that money, plus another $140 million in borrowed funds, to fund his Rebuild Indy program, a massive public works probject to fund street and sidewalk projects ahead of next year's election. And you thought Bart Peterson lied, who incidentally, also pledged not to raise taxes when he first ran for mayor. He argued that higher taxes would drive people out of the city and into the suburbs.


artfuggins said...

How may tax hikes does make for Ballard who promised no tax hikes??? I am including visible or hidden tax hikes.

Unigov said...

Light Rail is a billion dollar boondoggle that will primarily benefit affluent white people who moved to Hamilton County in order to get away from black people.

Meanwhile, inside 465, we have the worst bus service in the world.

I thought maybe that the Greg Ballard we elected has been replaced with an evil socialist robot, but the robot would be an improvement.

Had Enough Indy? said...

While it is ironic that Ballard will be on the same ballot as a mass transit referendum, he can say it is up to the people, and not his doing. It is additionally ironic that they have changed positions to make it dependent upon a COIT increase, which is what sunk Peterson.

Have you heard how much that COIT increase would have to be, to capture the billions of dollars they want for the transportation plan? I have to add that much of the proposal that I saw, was for highway improvements and not mass transit. Any change there, or is this a tax increase primarily to create tolled lanes on I-65 and I-69?

Your list of tax increases should add the PILOT increase from last month that will raise sewer rates to pay back a 30 year bond, the proceeds of which will be used for infrastructure improvements that will reasonably last 10 years. And, as far as I'm concerned, the $5 million in tax money taken back from the failed Navistar deal that was squandered on the ICVA and IEDI instead of being used for any number of pressing needs, belongs on your list since it could have relieved some of the need for new tax revenues.

Gary R. Welsh said...

The income tax increase Miles mentioned didn't seem big enough to raise the kind of money they'll need. I believe he mentioned a 0.1 or 0.2 percentage point increase. I think they figured the average household would pay $20 a month more. On the tolled lanes, he mentioned building new express lanes that would be tolled; the existing lanes would remain toll free. I can't imagine that many people jumping into a tolled lane to drive faster unless the existing lanes become so congested that the commute to work takes too long. They should have tolled a few miles of I-70 over by the airport when they relocated it to accommodate the new airport terminal and FedEx facility. I noticed a few years ago that when I drove on I-70 into Kansas from Kansas City, MO that I-70 had been tolled. Not sure how Kansas uses that money.

Marycatherine Barton said...

Re HEI's comment that COIT sunk Peterson, I still think that if the Council Democrats had kept Steve Talley as President of the Council, Bart would have beeb reelected Mayor. And so it goes.

Mike Kole said...

@Unigov- It's worse than that, esp on your premise, because MPO's studies showed that on it's best days, the light rail would take nearly 4% of cars of I-69- but they conceded that was optimistic, and less than 2% was more likely. In reality, you aren't going to have people drive from Carmel or Westfield to the Fishers station to take the train. If they're driving that far, they're driving downtown.

This is just political pork. Let's check on the campaign finance records of the County Commissioners in Hamilton County, and Ballard, and follow the money.