Monday, October 25, 2010

Star Backs Ballard's Regional Tax To Fund Public Transportation

Mayor Greg Ballard intends to put his hired gun lawyers at Barnes & Thornburg to work at the legislature next year pushing a new regional tax to fund public transportation. To date, Ballard has supported higher taxes to fund the Capital Improvement Board and property tax diversions that have allowed the CIB to give $33.5 million to billionaire Herb Simon to subsidize the Indiana Pacers. The first and only regional tax approved to date is the food and beverage tax that is helping pay for the Lucas Oil Stadium for billionaire Jim Irsay's Colts. Under this latest scheme, state lawmakers will be asked to place a referendum on next November's municipal election ballot, most likely to authorize a new regional income tax, to fund public transportation. The Star offers an editorial today in support of the plan:

The federal government can't be expected to continue to pay for commuters to hop a bus from Hamilton County to Downtown. The responsibility is, or at least should be, a local and regional concern.

But there's another layer of government -- the state -- that stands in the way of Central Indiana's ability to build its own regional transit system. That needs to change next year.

State legislators likely will be asked during next year's session to authorize regional leaders to stage a referendum on transit funding in November 2011. To be clear, lawmakers won't be asked to approve a tax increase to pay for rail and bus lines. Rather, their role is only to allow Central Indiana residents to decide for themselves whether to spend money on buses and trains.

The need for a better transit system -- and for a proper mechanism to fund it -- is evident. At year's end, when federal grants expire, popular bus routes that carry commuters from Fishers and other points in Hamilton County to Downtown are scheduled to be dropped. Residents who now ride the bus to work will have little choice but to pile into their cars, adding to the congestion on city streets and highways.

It's important to remember, however, that the proposed regional transit system isn't just about helping Hamilton County commuters. Bus lines would be extended to various points in the region. Rail lines would be extended to Fishers but also to Greenwood, and eventually other regional destinations.

Even more important, Indianapolis' woeful bus system finally would have the means to create a functional network for moving urban workers to suburban job sites. That's a critical step for the financial health of individual families and the economic strength of the region . . .
What a difference four years makes. Greg Ballard ran against then-Mayor Bart Peterson's 65% increase in the income tax increase to fund public safety in 2007. In 2011, he plans to run on a new regional tax to fund public transportation. Sounds like an effective re-election strategy. Hah.


James said...

I get it that the way to reduce taxes is to start by saying "No" to new taxes.

And yet I believe that we need some regional taxing authority if we are going to address the transportation problem - particularly mass transit.
We also have to address land-use on a regional scale.

Rather than a regional tax, an environmental impact fee on new "greenfield" development to help pay for transportation would put the responsibility on the people who are driving the costs of transportation up - and promote redevelopment of existing land.

Any new taxes would have to be combined with restraint in other areas - like multi-million dollar gifts to billionaires.

James said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cato said...

So you pay for Indy regardless of whether you live in it. So much for "voting with your feet."

Nobody likes to raise taxes more than a Republican.

As for regional transportation, Indy has spent the last two decades tearing up train tracks and paving them over with bike trails. You can still see the streetcar tracks trying to peek through the asphalt on College Avenue.

Indy used to have a lovely streetcar and interurban system. Indy threw away its chance to be a transportation hub, and it destroyed wonderful installed infrastructure.

Search "Indianapolis Traction Terminal" in Google Images.

Nobody should have to pay to dig Indy out of the hole it dug for itself.

If there is a transportation board, keep it and all its members far from Indy. No Indy resident should be allowed to serve on it, and no Indy person or corporation should have access to its budget.

I'm perhaps being a bit extreme, but if Indy is advocating something, you can bet that it's trying to scam the rest of the state.

Advance Indiana said...

Suburban taxpayers in Chicago have forked over billions to fund regional public transportation projects. That has only led to more tolled roads and a mass transit system that is always teetering on bankruptcy and looking for a state bailout. They've invested billions in bringing light rail to the suburbs in Chicago but they still keep building more highways and widening the lanes of existing highways. Toll fares and mass transit fares keep going up; the politicians and their buddies keep lining their pockets with all of the contracts, high-paying jobs, legal work, etc, that the regional transportation authorities generate.

Anonymous said...

If this tax increase passes in my area, I am done helping out this city, trying to make it a better place. My $100-$200 a year in charity giving ceases immediately. My spending money at local businesses ceases immediately. With this tax, and demands for taxes for other things, I won't be able to afford to give to charity, eat out at all, etc.. This city is becoming nothing but a socialist cesspool. This transit plan is about making a select few extremely wealthy, providing jobs for maybe 1,000 middle to upper middle class construction workers, and bailing out rich folks in Hamilton County, without making the rich folks foot the bill.

Mike Kole said...

Nowhere is it ever considered that the riders actually pay for it. That's the obscenity. Always looking to skin somebody else. This is emblematic of everything that is wrong with this country.

Paul K. Ogden said...

This is at least a tax increase argument the Mayor could make a decent argument about. The problem is he has no credibility given his history of supporting tax and fee increases, which now total over 100. Also he has no credibility on the spending side either - the $86 million guaranteed loan for a developer who couldn't get financing to develop a project and the behind the scenes deal to send property taxes to the Pacers are but two of the latest examples o fthat.

Unigov said...

There is no sense in spending tax money to build a rail system to help white people who moved to Fishers to get away from black people. Almost all the people in Fishers own cars and if they chose to move 18 miles from downtown, that's there problem. They could move into town if they wanted.

The buses would be funded if the City hadn't given all its money over to sports and conventions.

I could not disagree more with "James" - I live close to where I work, I made a rational life choice, and those that didn't can suffer their consequences.

James said...

If you actually read the proposal, you will see that the vast majority of the money is going towards...roads.

BTW: Roads are a socialist plot. They don't begin to pay for themselves in dedicated taxes and fees - dedicated money only pays about 1/2 of the cost.

Also, if you are paying attention to the issues you understand that Indianapolis Metro area isn't growing in housholds much- but it's expanding outward. It's that expansion outward that's driving the traffic.

If it were up to me, I'd say screw the people that want to commute from Carmel to a job Downtown or in Greenwood. They can sit in gridlocked bumper-bumper traffic as far as I'm concerned.

Again, I'd suggest that we tax the folks who are building and buying new homes and businesses in what were once cornfields - an impact fee. They are the ones who are increasing the vehicle miles.

Downtown Indy said...

Listen all you people come gather round
Gotta get me a game plan gotta shake you to the ground.
Just give me what I know is mine
People do you hear me just give me the sign
It ain't much I'm asking if you want the truth
Here's to the future for the dreams of youth
I want it all (give it all) I want it all I want it all and I want
It now
I want it all (yes I want it all) I want it all (hey)
I want it all and I want it now

Tell me, is Ballard a Queen fan?

Downtown Indy said...

As to the matter of highways, I think they should actually remove lanes. Make I-65, I-69 and I-465 2-lanes again as repairs become necessary. Quit adding more lanes - this only adds more recurring cost and thus tax burden in addition to the cost of adding them in the first place.

People WILL modify their behavior and *gasp* even carpool if driving and getting stuck in miles of traffic backup is unacceptable to them.

The more capacity the highways have, the farther out people will move. And that results in still more highway lanes to be built, and people again move farther out.

There are plenty of lanes for actual 'interstate' traffic, just not for the peak commuting hours.

Unigov said...

I agree with this completely:

"If it were up to me, I'd say screw the people that want to commute from Carmel to a job Downtown or in Greenwood. They can sit in gridlocked bumper-bumper traffic as far as I'm concerned."

Impact taxes ignore the fact that these knobs who commute downtown to Noblesville are already paying gas taxes out the ying tang.

Tax money should be used to help the poor. Indy does the opposite. Irsay gets a new stadium but poor people have to deal with the worst bus service in the country...and if an enterprising poor person tries to run a taxi they get busted by the Taxi Mob.

James said...


"Impact taxes ignore the fact that these knobs who commute downtown to Noblesville are already paying gas taxes out the ying tang."

They may be paying gas taxes "out the yin tang"---whatever that is--or they may not be - depending on the MPG their car gets. Whatever amount they are paying, overall it's only about half of what it costs.

You could increase the gas tax to actually pay the costs of the roads - or you can use impact fees to address the sprawl issue... which is at the heart of a lot of problems - including transportation.