Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sponsor Of $100 Million Giveaway To IMS Prefers Taxpayers, Not Gaming Industry Pay For Subsidy

State Sen. Mike Young is such a nice guy. He first offers an amendment to a vehicle bill in the Senate to provide $100 million to the privately-owned Hulman-George family to make improvements to their Indianapolis Motor Speedway using state tax dollars that was rammed through the Senate in a matter of days with virtually no public discussion. This, of course, came on the heels, of the Hulman-George adding two prominent rent-a-civic leaders, Mark Miles and Jim Morris, to be a part of their corporate leadership team, hiring a team of lobbyists, including former lawmakers, and showering lawmakers with campaign contributions and free tickets to IMS events.

Young acted like he was becoming physically ill after the House Ways & Means Committee proposed tapping the state's two racinos owned by Centaur Gaming, whose principals have several key lawmakers in their back pocket, along with former lawmakers lobbying on their behalf, as the source of funding for the $100 million giveaway. Now that SB 91 is in conference committee, Young, who says he has nothing to do with the gaming industry, isn't about to link his legislation to the industry now, so he'll make state taxpayers foot the bill instead. The Star's Mary Beth Schneider reports on the progress of Young's unprecedented tax giveaway to one of the state's wealthiest families:
House and Senate lawmakers today began negotiating a final version of legislation to help the Indianapolis Motor Speedway finance improvements.
But one thing that won’t be in a rewritten Senate Bill 91: Taking money from the racinos.
The House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, had linked the Speedway bill to the racino bill by taking money from the racinos to help the motorsports industry.
Sen. Mike Young, R-Speedway, said this morning that he would not agree to that change at all. Instead, he said, he preferred leaving the measure as it came out of the Senate, with the state contributing up to $5 million annually for 20 years to the Speedway. He said he was open to the House language, which made that a loan.
However, some lawmakers have said that is hardly a typical loan, as it is paid back by the state crediting the Speedway for the growth in sales and income taxes generated on the track’s property. The House version also includes a ticket fee.
The only thing for certain is that ordinary taxpayers will get the short end of the stick. The rich and powerful who pull the lawmakers' strings always get what they want. Why do they even pretend to represent us? On that point, the Star's editors have a good idea for legislation concerning financial disclosure by lawmakers, which means it will never see the light of day:
One obvious answer to the rampant promotion of personal interests in the Indiana General Assembly is greater transparency.
Report all outside income and financial ties. Make clear exactly whom campaign contributions and other gifts come from, and stop allowing influence-seekers to hide their activities under surrogate names. End the insulting practice of letting meals bought by lobbyists for legislators go unreported unless they cost more than $50.
Common sense and basic ethics. Yet there’s no sign of movement into such sunlight, despite a flurry of media attention to the ingrained coziness between lawmakers and special interests.
Nor – and this may be the key – is there much embarrassment about conflicts even when they’re exposed.
Two egregious examples made the news last week.
The coal industry won protection, at the expense of consumers, thanks to two legislators who hold high-level jobs in coal and the railroads that haul it.
A lobbyist for a company seeking a multimillion-dollar state contract got help from her father, a House leader, just a week after the governor placed a hold on state aid the lawmaker reportedly helped obtain for his son’s company.
In both instances, the elected officials insisted they were objective stewards of the public’s will and wouldn’t dream of acting out of personal interest.

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