Business group calls for commuter tax, education initatives

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INDIANAPOLIS (Dec. 8, 2014) - If you drive downtown to go to work, you're on the roads every day.

But if you live outside Marion County, you're not chipping in to pay for those roads.

And now the Indy Chamber wants to change that.

On Monday, chamber officials announced the issue was again one of their top priorities for next year's legislative session. The idea has come up before, but has yet to be approved by lawmakers.

“We do support a tax on non-residents who live outside Marion County but work here,” said Indy Chamber president Michael Huber. “But there never has existed a revenue stream to pay for the resources that are needed like public safety infrastructures and resources to support that.”

Every day, some 150,000 commuters come into Indianapolis from other counties. And the chamber president says he wants other cities involved as well.

“It would need to be a statewide solution that would impact Evansville and Fort Wayne and South Bend and would have to be something all the players in the region could opt into that wasn’t an Indianapolis only solution,” said Huber.

So what do people think? Especially those like Pat Cline who work downtown but commute from somewhere else?

“(I’m) not thrilled about that obviously,” said Cline. “I guess my question would be what would it go for would it be for? The roads that I’m using? (if that’s the case) I’d be open to it but I certainly don’t want to be taxed to death.”

“Any time you add taxes I’m sure it would be controversial because we are paying taxes in our home community as well,” said Mark Shaffer, who also lives outside Marion County. “I don’t know what kind of dollars we’re talking but if it was a reasonable amount I wouldn’t be opposed to that… because we benefit from some of the services provided by the city of Indianapolis.”

The chamber listed five key priorities for lawmakers in Monday’s agenda, which also include mass transit, water management and pre-k education.

But another education item on their agenda is also getting some attention--a call for the state superintendent to be appointed instead of elected. It’s a position they've had in the past but one that's causing more controversy now because of all the sparring between superintendent Glenda Ritz and the state board of education.

“That’s been our stance for over ten years,” said Huber. “I understand why it would draw some attention based on what’s happening at the Statehouse now but that will remain part of our agenda as it has for many years.”

The Indiana Chamber has also called for such a move, while the governor has called for the board to be allowed to elect its own chair.

Lawmakers go back into session January 6.