Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Who Needs The Indianapolis City-County Council When You Have Corrupt State Lawmakers Making Decisions For Us?

Once again, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard has shown us that if he can't get what he wants from the City-County Council, he will just have his city-paid lobbyists at Barnes & Thornburg go to the State House and get irresponsible Republican state lawmakers who have no respect for the separation of powers to give him unchecked power. The Senate Committee on Tax and Fiscal Policy adopted an amendment to SB 176, the mass transit tax and spend boondoggle that has reared its ugly head yet again this year, to allow the Indiana Development Finance Authority to issue bonds upon Mayor Ballard's request and divert up to $187.5 million in local tax revenues over 25 years to finance infrastructure improvements the City-County Council expressly rejected last year, opting instead for payment of those projects on a pay-as-you-go approach.

The amendment adopted by the committee allows Emperor Ballard to immediately borrow about $125 million and pledge up to $7.5 million annually in excise surtax and wheel tax revenues to the Indiana Development Finance Authority to pay bond debt service on bonds the state-controlled agency will issue at his command. The City-County Council, the fiscal body of our local government, will have no say in the amount of money to be borrowed or the projects to be funded. This will allow Mayor Ballard to repay the bond lawyers and pay-to-play contractors who have been stuffing money in his campaign war chest so they can reap immediate benefits for their contributions and complete projects now at an inflated 50% cost for which future taxpayers will be paying for decades. This is heresy and proves once again that having a Republican-controlled legislature does not equate to good fiscal policy when you have a bunch of legislators masquerading as fiscal conservatives who are more interested in repaying campaign contributors than serving as a watchdog for the taxpayers.

That is to say nothing for the underlying bill sponsored by Sen. Pat Miller (R-Indianapolis) and Sen. Brent Waltz (R-Greenwood), which would allow new income taxes to be levied on corporations and individuals, on top of the property taxes we are already paying to support IndyGO, to expand mass transit into the suburbs. Even worse, control of the expenditures of those mass transit funds will be vested in an appointed, unaccountable regional board hand-picked by the pay-to-play contractors who have already divvied up the contracts for work on the expanded mass transit district. In short, the politicians could give a damn less what's in the public's best interest; they are only interesting in using your hard-earned taxpayer dollars to reward the people stuffing money in their pockets.

UPDATE: The Star's Jon Murray has posted a story in which the mayor's chief of staff, Ryan Vaughn, claims the mayor had nothing to do with the insertion of language granting him alone bonding authority for local public infrastructure improvements. If you believe that, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn I will sell you.
It’s a change that Ballard’s chief of staff, Ryan Vaughn, says the mayor didn’t request. Ballard and his staffers learned about the planned amendment Monday night, he said.
“But we’re certainly not opposed to it,” Vaughn said, calling it a positive development that could bring projects to more neighborhoods.
The Senate Republicans’ move enraged committee Democrats, who voted against the transit bill, and it drew criticism from council leaders.
President Maggie Lewis said via Twitter that she doesn’t support “unaccountable multimillion-dollar loans.”
“I simply do not understand why the mayor won’t sit down and work with the council leadership to find common ground,” Vice President John Barth said, saying he favors a more bipartisan approach.
Vaughn said he had tried to set up talks between Ballard and council leaders for months, to no avail.


Anonymous said...

But the City cries "Home Rule" whenever you try to compel it to obey state law.

The bottom line in Indiana is that the moneyed interests always win.

Anonymous said...

Several trials of recent around the US of Governors, Mayors and other officials prove their is a justice system watching...Time for the reality here...