Taxing commuters could help fund police, public services

(WISH Photo/Alex Janin)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – The push to put more police officers on the street could get a financial boost through a “commuter” tax.

That means taxing people who travel into Marion County for work even though they live in a different county.

The revenue could help pay to fix the roads damaged during the last winter. It could also help IMPD hire more police officers, something the Fraternal Order of Police feels will help make the city safer.

According to the Indy Chamber, about 205,000 people commute into Marion County for work. But their income tax goes towards the county in which they live, something the Indy Chamber would like to change.

According to Michael Huber, President and CEO of Indy Chamber, more than 51,000 people from Hamilton CO. and work in Marion CO., nearly 33,000 travel in from Hendrick’s CO., and another more than 15,000 from Hancock CO.

“The way that we pay for government services in a large part is based on an economy that existed over 100 years ago. It was typical that if you lived in your town, you also worked in your town. If you lived in your county, you worked in your county,” he said.

But with more than 200,000 people crossing the Marion CO. line to earn a paycheck, some worry public services like police and road repairs aren’t getting their fair share.

Taxing commuters could change that.

“I understand the city’s argument and it does make sense that if you’ve got 200,000 people working downtown that requires more policemen to be here and they have to get paid,” said Dick Mcomber, Marion CO. resident. “They don’t work for free.”

“If I got to spend an extra $50 to have a good road, it’s better than the 600 I spent on tires,” said Mark Lesinski, Indianapolis.

So if people seem willing to pay, why the hold up?

“Anytime you make a change like this and one city goes first or goes alone, you’ll always have that kind of a risk and that’s why we would not support that unless it were a regional solution where you had significant by in from surrounding cities,” said Huber.

“Some people live in Marion County work outside the county so should we pay the Boone County Sheriff salaries because people from Indianapolis drive to Boone County to go to work,” asked Mcomber. “Either do them both or don’t do either.”

24-Hour News 8 spoke with the Mayor’s Office today.

It supports the idea of re-examining how income taxes are paid in Indiana, but it stresses that any major changes would have to come at the state level. That means it’s up to the general assembly, not local governments to decide.

Click here to see the report on the top ten highest municipal wage taxes in the USA.

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