Council adds public transportation tax to November ballot

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Voters will have the final say on a tax increase that would fund more public transportation in the city.

The city-county council voted 18-6 on Monday to add a mass transit proposal to the November ballot in Marion County.

The proposal, which includes Phases 2 and 3 in an already-underway expansion of IndyGo bus services, would expand bus routes and add two more rapid transit lines. The city is currently constructing a Red Line rapid transit line on College Avenue and is set to open a new transit center downtown this summer.

The referendum, which will be added to the ballot, would raise the county income tax by 25 cents per $100 of income.

Dozens of people gathered to show their support for the proposal, including the group IndyCAN, representing church and faith leaders across the city.

"I’m concerned about families being strengthened, people being able to be exposed to everything, and get to a good job," Christ Church Cathedral's Shannon MacVean-Brown said.

The Indy Chamber is also leading an effort, called Transit Drives Indy, pushing for the referendum.

"This is a decade in the making ... and it’s really about giving the people the choice, giving the voters an option to weigh in on the issue of transit," the Indy Chamber's Mark Fisher said.

It remains to be seen, though, whether widespread support for a tax increase exists. Councilors who voted against the proposal expressed passionate concern that the plan did not actually benefit the people who need public transportation the most.

"We need to cater to those that are in the highest need and this does not cater to those that are most transit dependent until years down the road," Christine Scales, R-District 3, said.

"We turned down that justice center because it was such a waste of money. ... This system right here is the same thing ... people are going to pay for something that they’re not going to (use)," Joe Simpson, D-District 7, said.

Voters will have the final say in November. Both sides of the issue are expected to campaign leading up to the election, on what has become a hot-button issue.

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