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Bill Would Give County Residents Vote On Mass Transit Plan

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.

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