City-County Council set to vote on Marion County transit tax

Bus riders use the new Julia M. Carson Transit Center for the first time on June 26, 2016. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – The City-County Council is set to vote on raising income taxes in order to pay for a mass transit expansion in Indianapolis. Thirteen councilors need to vote “yes” in order for the tax hike to pass.

The 0.25 percent income tax hike — $100 for every $40,000 a person makes — would go toward expanding transit by 70 percent in Indianapolis. The expansion would result in more frequent bus stops, more reliable routes and three new bus rapid transit lines.

Supporters argue Indianapolis is already far behind when it comes to mass transit. They say the plan would help pull more people out of poverty, by giving them a reliable way to get to work. Councilor Jeff Miller supports the plan and told 24-Hour News 8 it would make Indianapolis more competitive and environmentally friendly.

“It’s so important because we have major poverty issue in our city,” Miller said. “One of the best ways to create an inclusive growth model where everyone has a chance to rise is connecting people to the workplace. Transit options have to be affordable, they have to be available. There’s many other strategies we need to employ, but man this is a big one.”

Miller also argued Indianapolis is too dependent on parking.

“We’re addicted to cars as a society,” the councilor argues. “Therefore, we’re addicted to parking. Every time a new project comes in, you have to have all this parking and we’re wasting space with that. If we can get to a place where people don’t have to have two cars — let alone maybe one — that’s also huge. It’s huge for our city to not have so many parking spaces and parking garages, but it’s better for our environment, too.”

People opposed to the transit plan argue that it costs too much money, that people won’t use transit  or that the Red Line will disrupt traffic and cause more congestion.

“There’s many risks, definitely,” Miller added. “But the cost of doing nothing to me is far greater than the risks. We’ve taken years to get to this vote Monday night; we’re at a huge point here. If we walk away from it, we’re basically saying to the system, slow bleed out; let the patient just lay in the corner and slow bleed out. I can’t do that.”

Miller said he thinks the council will approve the tax hike. If it does, the tax increase will go into effect on Oct. 1.

Another concern is a $75 million federal grant that is in jeopardy because Congress has not agreed on a budget.

“We’ll be behind if we don’t get this federal grant,” Miller said. “The plan was to use the federal grant [to build the Red Line]. Instead, we’ll have to do a little more bonding and it will take a little longer. The federal grant is up in the air, and that could set the system back a year, maybe two years.”

The City-County Council meeting is set to begin at 7 p.m.

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