Two years ago Gregg Ballard kicked off an effort to win legislative approval for a referendum on mass transit. It went nowhere and, then, last year a second attempt failed. For Ballard and leaders in the business community this is a matter of economic development and they’re not giving up.
They have taken lawmakers on a trip to Charlotte to show them how a mass transit system there led to investments of more than a billion dollars and now they will go to the legislature again.
That’s because the visions of mass transit buses throughout Indianapolis and a light rail line from downtown to Noblesville will not become reality without local tax hikes in Marion and Hamilton Counties. A big rally at the Artsgarden was designed to show widespread support for the proposal. “Public transit is necessary to create and sustain a healthy, vibrant and liveable city,” Amy Crook of People for Urban Progress told the crowd.
But the necessary tax hikes must be approved in a referendum and the General Assembly needs to give its okay for a vote to be conducted. It sounds easy but the legislature has declined even to give the proposal a full airing. The bill has never gotten out of committee. “Many great things that happen at the Statehouse take some years to get there,” says the Mayor, “I think we all know that.”
Despite the Mayor’s optimism Republican control at the Statehouse and a big turnover among legislators may make his task more difficult. But some key lawmakers have pledged support. “We have work to do,” says Mark Miles of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, “but we now have Central Indiana advocates who are in a position to help us.”
The hope is that today’s kickoff will lead to a referendum in November of 2014. It would call for a tax hike that would cost a family of four with an income of $50,000 to pay $10 a month.
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