Supporters of a proposal to raise income taxes to expand mass transit in Indianapolis have at least 11 of the 13 votes they need to implement the hike.
Only four city-county councilors have told IBJ or said publicly that they intend to vote no. Another four say they haven’t made up their minds. And six didn’t respond to IBJ’s request for comment.
Mark Fisher, vice president of government relations and policy development at Indy Chamber, which is pushing the tax increase, said he’s feeling confident it will pass. That
Councilors are considering a 0.25 percentage-point increase in the local income tax rate, which would cost a taxpayer with a $100,000 salary another $250 per year. The tax increase is projected to generate at least $54.4 million annually starting in 2018.Interesting is the position of Democratic Mayor Joe Hogsett. The IBJ article continues:
Already, Marion County voters have authorized the raise, but it won’t go into effect without approval from the City-County Council.
One person who hasn’t weighed in publicly is Mayor Joe Hogsett. The mayor does not have a vote in council matters, but he can veto its ordinances.
Hogsett’s spokeswoman, Taylor Schaffer, wrote in an email to IBJ that the mayor won’t veto the tax increase if it passes but he also won’t take a position on the proposal. Instead, he “has made clear to council leadership that they should listen to the message sent by their constituents,” she said.
“Ultimately that decision is for the council, not him,” Schaffer said. “We’re going to allow the legislative process to play out.”While Mayor Hogsett can, rightfully, be blamed for a lack of leadership on the issue, I'm not sure that's better than Republican Mayor Ballard who never saw a tax or fee increase that he wouldn't enthusiastically support.
The problem, of course, is the bipartisan pay-to-play nature of Indianapolis politics. While taxes are often sold to the public as a way of improving public services, the extra tax money inevitably ends up in the pocket of government contractors and attorneys while the public service remains unimproved. A perfect example is Indianapolis having two large local tax increases to hire new police officers...and both times ending up with fewer officers.
There should be little doubt that this large tax increase will do nothing more than, at best, marginally improving bus service in Indianapolis. The underlying "build it and they will come" theory of increasing bus ridership has been shown to fail in other cities. Rather increased transit spending works when the money is going to meet demand for bus service, not to try to artificially create that demand. The bus system has not done well in Indianapolis because the city is one of the least dense major cities in the country and travel by automobile is easy. That dynamic is not going to change with more transit spending.