Mass transit bill moves forward to House

February 4, 2014 | WRTV6 | link to article

INDIANAPOLIS - A plan to expand mass transit in Marion County and establish public transportation in several surrounding areas received the green light from the Senate on Tuesday.

The proposal gives six counties the option of funding the services through local income taxes, if voters approve the idea.

The Senate voted 28-20 to move the plan for mass transit forward, but its fate in the House is unclear.

"If there's more options for people, they can get to their jobs quicker, they can meet their obligations. This is a family issue. It's an issue of faith," Kent Mitchell said.

For Mitchell, IndyGo buses are the main way he gets his family from point A to point B.

He and other members of the organization Indy Can have been lobbying lawmakers to pass the plan.

Under the plan, Marion County, along with Delaware, Hamilton, Hancock, Johnson and Madison counties are eligible to create or expand their public transportation services.

Officials said 25 percent of fares would fund operations.

Counties would also have the opportunity to fund the projects by imposing local income or employment taxes on certain corporations, if voters approve the idea.

A provision to limit the bargaining rights of the unions representing transportation employees prevented Sen. Jean Breaux from supporting the mass transit plan.

"This bill took a potshot at labor by undermining the employees -- all the men and women who work at IndyGo -- they're right to negotiate for their working conditions," Breaux said.

The plan now moves to the House for consideration, but Speaker Brian Bosma isn't saying yet whether he or the majority will support it.

"We have to take a hard look at the plan. I know there were some changes in the taxation of the plan by the Senate which several here are questioning," Bosma said.

Both the House and Senate are scheduled to return to the Statehouse next week.

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard praised the Senate’s action Tuesday.

"Convenient and reliable transportation is critical to attracting new residents and is crucial to the future growth of central Indiana," Ballard said in a statement.