Governor throwing caution flag on IMS, mass transit bills

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INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana’s governor is throwing a potential caution flag in the plan to fund improvements at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Gov. Mike Pence expressed concerns about the Motorsports Investment Bill (SB 91) Wednesday in a briefing with reporters at the Statehouse.

“I am a huge fan of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” Pence said. “That being said, I have some problems with the bill as it’s currently crafted.”

The bill, which passed in the Senate last month and is currently working its way through the House, would create a Motorsports Investment district. Money generated through sales and incomes taxes at IMS would be reinvested back into the track to the tune of $5 million a year and as much as $100 million overall.

“This legislation, to my way of thinking, includes no specific private capital requirements, and I think that should be a concern,” said Pence.

Fox 59 received this statement Wednesday from IMS spokesperson Doug Boles:

“Input from the Governor – the chief executive officer of our state – is part of the legislative process and we obviously welcome and encourage his input. We will work with his office, as we continue to work with the members of the House and the Senate, to address any concerns about this legislation. We do not view the Governor’s comments as a road block, but rather as an important part of the legislative process.”

In recent weeks, the governor has been trying to gain support for his tax cut plan, but in his first two months in office, he’s stayed fairly quiet when it comes to other big issues.

Pence also expressed concerns Wednesday about the mass transit now bill making its way through the Senate.

“I have an open mind about this issue, but I have a couple of concerns,” said Pence. “It represents a significant tax increase at a time when I’m fighting to cut taxes.”

Pence has been trying to convince legislators to support his tax cut plan, but so far, leaders in both chambers have been cool to the idea.

Meantime, the governor’s remarks came just one day after the mass transit bill lost a key sponsor.

Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, withdrew his sponsorship of House Bill 1011 because he couldn’t give the proposal his full support.

Kenley expressed concerns about the financial aspects of the plan, but said he thought it should be up to local governments to decide the issue. An influential voice in the Senate, Kenley chairs the appropriations committee and serves on the tax and fiscal policy committee, which should be hearing the bill in the coming days.

“I don’t know what his reasons were for pulling away,” said state Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, of Kenley’s decision. “This is all about having a referendum, and making a local decision.”

The bill calls for Marion and surrounding counties to hold referendums on whether to raise local income taxes by 0.03 percent to fund a new transit system.

The legislation passed the Senate Local Government committee Wednesday in a 7-2 vote.

“All it’s really doing is allowing us to ask our constituency if they want to know more, and allow them to vote yes or no,” said Westfield Mayor Andy Cook.

“I’m hopeful we can get some kind of bill out we can work with,” said Torr.

Stephen Jones is also hopeful legislators will come to an agreement on mass transit. Jones rides the bus to work every day, and wants to see improved bus service downtown.

“It’d be good for the community, for those who don’t have vehicles,” Jones said.

Sen. Kenley issued the following statement to Fox59:

“Removing my sponsorship from House Bill 1011 should not be misconstrued. A sponsor should be an advocate for the legislation, and I do not feel comfortable as a sponsor for this bill because I do have concerns about the cost of this mass transit plan for Marion and Hamilton counties. I will continue to gather input and keep an open mind before making a final decision.”

3 comments

  • James

    MASS TRANSIT- What a Joke! I do not believe it to be appropriate for the citizens of Marion County to foot the burden of tax increases if the benefits also go into other surrounding counties. We the people of Marion County are so tired of paying taxes that benefit others.

  • RichieSlammer

    Mass transit, get the thugs out to the mall faster, YA A JOKE AND TAX HIKE COMING. Thanks Pence its why I voted for you 🙂 THUGLETTS BEWARE 🙂

  • Italiano

    So we are to give 100 million to rich people who run the track….while people go hungry….and then there is this mass transit boondoggle…wow, the brown stuff is sure deep in Hoosierland…and we are still in the wrong time zone…sigh

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