Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Referendum Language For Income Tax Increase For Mass Transit

Some readers have expressed concern about the wording of the referendum proposed for the November election which would allow Marion County's local income tax rate to be raised another quarter percent, or a little more than 14%. The referendum language was set out in the state law requiring the referendum procedure. Here's its wording:
“Shall Marion County have the ability to impose a county economic development income tax rate, not to exceed a rate of 0.25%, to pay for improving or establishing public transportation service in the county through a public transportation project that will create a connected network of buses and rapid transit lines; increase service frequency; extend operational hours; and implement three new rapid transit lines?”
Here's an important point to keep in mind regarding the financing of this Red Line. Indianapolis officials have already decided to tap federal money to begin work on the first phase of implementing the planned 37-mile bus rapid transit line known as the Red Line that would extend from Westfield south to Greenwood before awaiting approval of the income tax increase. IndyGo plans to use a $75 million grant included in President Barack Obama's budget to build a 13-mile leg of the Red Line from 66th Street in Broad Ripple to the University of Indianapolis on the south side.

The 13-mile leg of the Red Line would cost at least $96 million to build. IndyGo plans to tap TIF funds, the Department of Public Works budget and its own reserve fund to make up the $21 million difference. Without the income tax increase, building additional segments of the Red Line and paying for its estimated annual $6 million operating costs are problematic. The $6 million figure seems a bit too low.

The connectivity to Hamilton and Johnson Counties is highly speculative as well. Neither of those counties have any plans in the next few years to make funding available for the Red Line or to place a referendum on the ballot to increase their own income tax rates to pay for it. It's also my understanding that the Red Line will not have dedicated bus lanes outside Marion County so Carmel and Greenwood residents won't face the traffic disruptions that will be felt across the Marion County.


Anonymous said...

Seems like injunctive relief would be appropriate.

Pete Boggs said...

Yes, it appears the language of the "referen-dumb" is proponent drafted. Is the state certfying that this is balanced drafting?!?

Unknown said...

Gary. As a person knowledgable about reading law, can you translate some of these modifications made to the Local Income Tax, as signed by Mike Pence yesterday? There are 33 references to a word search of, "Public Transportation" in this bill. But, I cannot seem to discern and understand the implications this will have on the Indianapolis Red Line. Can you help me understand a little better?

Gary R. Welsh said...

Unfortunately, Brian, I don't have enough volunteer time to research every bill that becomes law.