City officials mull idea of commuter taxes

(WISH Photo/Eric Halvorson, file)
(WISH Photo/Eric Halvorson, file)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – The 2014 session of the Indiana General Assembly has devoted a lot of time to a discussion of a business tax cut. But a tax hike idea is getting some attention.

It would affect you if you live in one county and drive to work in another.  That’s been nicknamed the “commuter tax.”

The Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce says the concept is worthy of discussion because commuters use services without paying for them.

Mayor Jim Brainard of Carmel told us he doesn’t object to the idea.

“Carmel would benefit from a commuter tax, quite honestly.  We have far more people coming to work in Carmel every day than leaving.”  But, Brainard also said, “I think that’s a bad way to raise money in Indianapolis, though, because I think it’s going to drive companies out.”

Brainard told 24-Hour News 8 a commuter tax could become a burden for employers.

“If you’ve got hourly workers who are struggling to get to a place of employment and they’re coming from a different county, that employer is going to have to raise their salaries to be able to pay that tax.”

He also predicted if Marion County does it, other counties will do the same thing.  So, as Brainard put it, “we’re all charging each other for people to drive back and forth.”

An op-ed written by Michael Huber, President and CEO of the Indy Chamber, encourages discussion of the commuter tax concept.

Huber contends people who use public services “should contribute to the public investments and services that make those activities possible.”

So, in his essay he declared the chamber’s support for “the creation of an incremental Local Option Income Tax (LOIT) that would remain in the county of employment to provide cities the ability to fund essential infrastructure and services.”

But, the Indy Chamber also said it is not “wed to any one solution.”

It just wants a discussion of the options that could address the inequities in the use of public services and how those services are funded.

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