Monday, February 11, 2013

Lawmakers Cut Deal Secretly To Give $100 Million To Hulman Family Before Holding A Single Public Hearing

The Indiana General Assembly has been tight-fisted when it comes to funding any basic services funded by the state of Indiana. Its frugality in funding education, child services, health care, highways, etc. has allowed the state to accumulate a substantial budget surplus at a time when many state governments have faced large budget deficits and have been forced to resort to raising taxes. Gov. Mike Pence has said he wants to cut state income taxes by 10%, a move that received a chilly reception from Republican state legislative leaders who said the state's revenue outlook was too uncertain to cut taxes. Yet those same state legislative leaders have been meeting secretly behind closed doors with Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials to reach agreement on a plan that will divert up to $100 million in state income and sales taxes over the next 20 years to finance improvements on the Hulman family's privately-owned race track and golf course.

Key legislative lawmakers didn't even hide the fact that they've been secretly negotiating with IMS officials for the past two years. On cue, the Indianapolis Star reports on key lawmakers declaring their support before a single public hearing has been held on a costly giveaway to one of the state's wealthiest families.
Among the changes will be lights for night events and also improvements to satisfy an agreement with the federal government to make the facility accessible to the handicapped.
Sen. Luke Kenley, the Noblesville Republican who is chairman of the budget-writing Senate Appropriations Committee, said that committee will consider the bill on Thursday.
"I think it's a pretty good plan," Kenley said. "We've worked with the Speedway people for almost two years now; we've been very slow to bring this out. They were very hesitant to come to state government but they don't see where they can find the capital resources they need in any other way. We think we've refined it down to the point if they succeed with this the state will get a return on their investment in terms of more tax dollars being raised than were before."
Kenley said the state thinks it will get back, and then some, the tax revenues it foregoes thanks to increased use of the facility.
"It's a 20 year plan. I would expect that within five years, if they develop the Speedway the way they are talking about doing so and having bigger and better and perhaps more events there, they are going to generate more activity, then we should start seeing some return within a five-year period," he said.
Rep. Tim Brown, the Crawfordsville Republican who is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, also appeared open to the plan.
"Indianapolis 500 is a branding that is across the world," Brown said. "It is something that we are proud of. When you talk to people in Europe, across Asia, Africa -- everybody understands the Indianapolis 500, so that branding we have to keep powerful."
What's the point of even holding a public hearing? These lawmakers, who all accept free tickets and other freebies from IMS officials, along with tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the IMS, have already cut the deal to give away our tax dollars and could care less what the public thinks or what services won't be funded because of this giveaway of state tax dollars. Your opinions don't matter. They don't represent the people; they only represent the special interests shoving money in their pockets or offering them free tickets, meals and other freebies. If taxpayers don't get in lawmakers' faces and put the fear of God in their political futures, they deserve the self-dealing corruption that permeates everything the Indiana General Assembly does. These people could care less whether your kids receive a quality public education, have access to health care or provide protection to at-risk children. It's all about "me, myself and I."

There is absolutely no demonstrable public benefit that can be attained by using state tax dollars to make improvements to this privately-owned facility. The Hulmans can't afford to threaten to move their race to another city if the taxpayers don't fork over the money, a threat frequently employed by the billionaires Jim Irsay and Herb Simon to extort more public subsidies for the Colts and Pacers. Yet it doesn't stop the lies from being spewed by those who believe it's the public's duty to finance the private endeavors of the state's wealthiest citizens. From the IBJ:
As state Sen. Michael Young, R-Speedway, prepared to file a bill Monday to divert state tax revenue to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, nearby businesses were pondering how facility improvements could boost commerce in the town of 12,000 residents.
The rule of thumb is “anything that could help Indianapolis Motor Speedway will help local business,” said Connie Harris, executive director of the Speedway Chamber of Commerce.
How stupid do they think we are? None of these improvements will have any impact on area businesses. That entire area around the track was a complete shit hole where nobody wanted to invest. The town of Speedway created a TIF district to invest tens of millions of property tax dollars that would have otherwise gone to fund schools and other units of government to make improvements and entice businesses to invest in the undesirable area. The only businesses which want to locate next to the Speedway are the racing teams and other businesses directly involved in racing. It is unattractive to other businesses other than a few restaurants and bars which generate very little tax revenues for the state and local governments.

UPDATE: Make sure you check out Amos Brown's interview with Mark Miles, Hulman & Co. CEO, on his "Afternoons with Amos" radio show this afternoon. Brown is the only person in the local media who has thus far viewed this taxpayer giveaway with healthy skepticism. Miles was clueless about the details of the Indiana Motorsports Investment District legislation being sponsored by Sen. Mike Young when Brown questioned him. Legislators tell the IBJ the district only captures state income and sales tax revenues much the same way the expansion of the professional sports development area did when it was enacted in 2009 as part of the CIB bailout, which allowed the CIB to receive up to $6 million annually from state income and sales tax revenues generated within the expanded development area, along with county option income tax revenues. The IBJ reports the IMS special taxing district will capture "a portion of state sales, income and corporate taxes in and around the Speedway" up to $5 million annually. Miles indicated to Brown that it could also include local sales and income taxes, including the food and beverage tax which currently benefits the CIB, although he really wasn't sure what was being included in the legislation. Miles also makes the outrageous claim that more than 6,000 jobs are generated by the IMS. The Speedway relies heavily on volunteers furnished by nonprofit organizations to staff concessions, parking, ticketing and crowd control related activities during race day events. The IMS donates money to the nonprofits which provide volunteers to help put on the race. No income taxes being paid on those volunteers. Remember that Miles was one of those liars who kept claiming the downtown professional sports teams and hotels add 65,000 jobs to the local economy. Miles and other members of the downtown mafia are renowned for pulling numbers straight out of their asses without any substantiation to support public subsidies for their self-dealing activities. Miles also suggested the IMS is in heavy competition with other race tracks in other states that are building newer and better racing venues with public tax dollars. Again, utter bullshit from Miles. No other race track in the country, including the Daytona track, compares to the size and stature of the IMS.


Downtown Indy said...

It's bad enough that political forces are so willing to finance what's supposed to be private enterprise.

It's double offensive that Republicans are the driving force behind it.

Fiscal responsibility is clearly dead and forgotten.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Very few people get elected to public office in this country today who aren't on the take. Believe me, I used to work as a lobbyist at the Indiana State House and for the Illinois House Staff. You will never meet a group of people who run around with their hands out expecting some sort of favor for anything they vote on than the people elected to that body. Free tickets to sporting events and concerts are at the top of their agenda. Some lobbyist hire pretty young interns who are simply used as free whores to satisfy their sexual urges. A number of young female staffers paid by taxpayer dollars are passed around like candy by the legislators as well. The State House Reporters all know it happens but won't report on it. When they're in session, they spend the day figuring out which lobbyist is going to buy their dinner and drinks that evening and make sure a lovely young lady will be accompanying them for dinner. They don't want to pay out of their own pockets for vacations so they create some official trip as a ruse for getting someone else to pay for their out-of-state trips to Florida, Hawaii, New Orleans, New York, etc. An average lawmaker propably pockets about $10,000-$12,000 a year in freebies, and that's a conservative estimate. Most of these freebies are never reported on their financial disclosure forms as gifts. Some use loopholes to avoid disclosure; others have agreements with sleazy lobbyists that the gift won't be reported. Of the 150 state lawmakers, there are probably fewer than two dozen who aren't on the take. The rest will sell out their constituents on any given day in consideration for a favor from a lobbyist or special interest group. With no federal prosecutor willing to prosecute the most rampant forms of public corruption, they know they can get by with it and they do. That's not counting lawmakers, including some attorneys and business owners, who blatantly use their position to make tens of thousands upwards into the millions. Look at what State Rep. Eric Turner has gotten by with. Many of them land new jobs once they are elected to the legislature that are explicitly a quid pro quo for their vote on by a certain industry or special interest group. They don't even have to show up for work regularly at those jobs to draw a full-time salary with benefits. There's no deterrent when they can engage in self-dealing in full public view and the media is so pathetic in this state that it won't put public pressure on prosecutors to do something about it.

Flogger said...

WOW (in caps) is there any Corporate Welfare Plan our Elected Officials object to???

The Soviet Union had the nomenklatura which was according to WIKI, "An official in the party or government bureaucracy could not advance in the nomenklatura without the assistance of a patron. In return for this assistance in promoting his career, the client carried out the policies of the patron."

We have our own system of Crony-Capitalism. It is every bit as destructive to America as Crony Communism was to the Soviet Union.

We shall see if our New Governor is any different from his predecessors. After all Pence will have to sign on the dotted line.

Had Enough Indy? said...

I'll be interested in how much Indy will lose in local income taxes. It would be poetic justice if the amount matched the City's " take" from the CIB taxes they just passed.

Gary R. Welsh said...

On that point, Pat, the news articles claim it only involves state sales and income tax revenues. When Amos Brown asked Miles about it during his interview, he couldn't say for certain what, if any, local taxes it included.