Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Did "Freebies" Play a Role in Huge CIB Tax Increases?

Last week, the Indianapolis City-County Council approved a 50% increase in the local rental car tax and 67% increase in the admissions tax, a tax on tickets to all events held at CIB-run facilities including Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Victory Field, Lucas Oil Stadium and the Convention Center.  Because of the way the deal was structure, many media outlets inaccurately reported the money was going to public safety.  After the first year, 75% of the tax increase money goes to the CIB which is flush with cash.

Councilor Brian Mahern tried to get open records information regarding free tickets to games and other events at CIB facilities given to councilors, which freebies might have influenced their votes.  While this information must be routinely disclosed in ethics filings in most legislative bodies, not in Indianapolis.  As long as those ticket came from another government or quasi-government entity (such as from the Mayor or CIB), the free tickets do nothave to be reported on ethics forms.  Brian Mahern lost the fight to have this information made public before the vote.

This week, Louis Mahern, Brian's father, pen a column in the Indianapolis Business Journal ("premium content" not available on-line), and asks the question whether the freebies played a role in saddling taxpayers with dramatically higher taxes, money which is just going into the CIB's coffers, an organization flush with cash:
The City faces a $40 million to $45 million budget gap in 2014.  Meanwhile, CIB has  a $50 million surplus.

So what's with taking care of the CIB, no matter what?

Could it have anything to do with each CIB board member getting two suite tickets to each Colts game?  These suite tickets, which come with a free VIP parking pass and complimentary food and beverages, have a street value of well over $500 apiece.  Board members also get complimentary tickets to the CIB suite at Bankers Life Fieldhouse for any Pacers game.  They have but to ask.

These Colts/Pacers perks alone are worth well over $10,000 per year per board member.

By the way, the mayor gets his own Colts suite along with at least 35 free tickets.  While the mayor may well use some of these tickets for the Boy Scouts, etc., the fact remains they are his to use as he wishes.  For instance, he might even host party officials or campaign contributors.  These mayoral freebies to Colts games alone are worth nearly $200,000 a year, not counting the food and soft drinks.

The mayor also gets free tickets to the Pacers any time he wants.

You have to admire [the] CIB for its efficiency.  For a little over $300,000 a year in well-placed freebies, it is getting a tax increase return of nearly $7 million.
Louis Mahern then turns to discussing the fact that the deal for the CIB tax increases still require $30 million cuts in city services.
The $30 million in cuts come after the mayor gets his priorities met.  You know, the mayor's personal staff, raises, the $10 million for the Pacers, the $6.2 million for the Broad Ripple Garagemahal and the tens of millions of dollars for private-developer subsidies in TIF districts.  Etcetera.

While we await the results of this cost cutting, we can be sure of what won't be eliminated.  Members of the Capital Improvement Board will collectively continue to receive well over $100,000 a year in free Cotls and Pacers  tickets and free VIP parking.  The mayor will continue to get his sweet suite and not coincidentally the Pacers will continue to get their piece of the pie.
Mahern does fail to note that Indianapolis taxpayers do receive something from the huge CIB tax increases. They get the shaft.

As a Republican, it is deeply disappointing that only a handful of Republican Councilors stood up against these CIB tax increases.

1 comment:

Jon said...

No of course freebies won't sway my vote, you guys need anymore cash?