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Bill Would Give County Residents Vote On Mass Transit Plan

A House committee will vote Wednesday on a bill that would allow Marion and Hamilton County voters to decide whether to raise local income taxes.

Indianapolis Bus

Photo: Paul Sableman (Flickr)

A city bus drives down Maryland Street in downtown Indianapolis.

A mass-transit tax referendum faces its first vote in the Indiana House on Wednesday. The House Roads and Transportation Committee will vote on whether to allow Marion and Hamilton County voters to decide whether to raise local income taxes to pay for an upgraded bus system and a light-rail line between downtown Indianapolis and Noblesville.

Legislators normally follow the wishes of local representatives on local taxes, and the bill has the support of Speaker Brian Bosma, who says voters deserve the chance to decide for themselves.

“The question is whether it‘s appropriate to allow the citizens of central Indiana to speak on the issue,” Bosma says. “I‘m not certain if a majority of the members of the House will feel the same way, and I‘ve told the advocates it‘s their job to make the case.”

But Senate President Pro Tem David Long says the usual local courtesy may not apply in this case. Long says it is beyond dispute that Indianapolis needs to upgrade its bus system.

But Long says some Indianapolis legislators are balking at voting for a potential tax hike that they are not convinced would benefit their constituents because the rail line would not come near them.

“It‘s going to be a very expensive component of this discussion, and so you can‘t just separate the ‘give the voters the chance to vote and we‘ll see,’ because you‘ve got two counties voting on this, and that changes the equation,” Longs says.  “It‘s only two counties, but they‘re very different counties.”

Long says he is not yet persuaded that light rail is worth the high cost.

Network Indiana

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  • Katherine O

    Our legislators need to take a good look at the plan being proposed. Initially there was talk of light rail, but that has been long since dropped. The rapid transit lines that are being proposed would use a kind of super bus–like a light rail car but on wheels. I can’t recall what it’s called. But the rapid transit lines would have dedicated lanes of traffic and proper stations, so the speed, comfort and convenience would be comparable to light rail but at a fraction of the cost.
    The entire project as currently proposed would cost less than was recently spent rebuilding even one of the interchanges on the West side of 465. And the number of people who would benefit from it is certainly greater than those who benefitted from an upgrading of one interchange.

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