It’s no secret that this session of the General Assembly has featured setbacks and frustrations. But often, long-term progress is better than the quick fix – success can be a marathon instead of a sprint.
That’s why the Indy Chamber supports HB1001, the forward-looking House Republican plan for transportation and infrastructure funding. Instead of relying on one-time monies, HB1001 as passed by the House proposes a comprehensive and sustainable funding source for the state highway system and local roads and streets. In addition to raising the gas tax four cents indexed to 2002 levels, the bill would eliminate diversions from the fund to ensure all revenue is spent on roads.
As the Crossroads of America, our transportation system is a competitive priority – but it can become a liability if political whims lead to neglect and underinvestment. A predictable, long-term infrastructure program will give business the confidence to grow in Central Indiana for the long haul.
No vote was taken this week, but we expect the Senate Appropriations Committee to amend the bill next week to reflect the Senate plan passed in the first half of session – ultimately, these issues will be settled in the session’s waning hours in conference committee.
Thursday was also Transit Day at the Statehouse – another example of slow-but-steady effort getting results. The Indy Chamber worked for years as a private sector leader of the Indy Connect initiative to create a realistic regional mass transit strategy for Central Indiana.
We also toiled over multiple sessions to convince the legislature to allow a county-by-county funding mechanism, giving local communities a voice on expanding transit to enhance workforce mobility, access to education, healthcare, and other daily necessities and quality of life amenities.
This focus is paying off. Last week, IndyGo released a detailed, five-year Marion County Transit Planthat implements Indy Connect in Indianapolis – extending high-frequency, all-day service to more than three times the population and double the employment of today’s bus system.
IndyGo also learned earlier this week that it has earned a $75 million federal grant to begin building the Red Line, a 35-mile bus rapid transit route that will ultimately serve more than 100,000 residents and 20% of the region’s jobs. The Red Line is the first of three rapid transit routes planned for Marion County, and will eventually cross into Carmel, Westfield and Greenwood – our initial foray into the regional system envisioned by Indy Connect and sought after by employers.
The Red Line will be most successful as part of a more robust, city-wide transit system. To make IndyGo’s plan a reality, the Chamber is advocating for the passage of a referendum in 2016 approving a 0.25% income tax increase (or 25 cents for every $100 of income – less than $10 a month for the average family).
It’s time for voters to have their say on the critical need for modern mass transit. The Indy Chamber is encouraging the Indianapolis City-County Council to seize this opportunity and approve the referendum for the fall general election; plans for a pro-transit campaign are underway pending the Council’s action to put the issue on the November ballot.
The Road Ahead for Civil Rights:
This progress is the product of time and effort: Transit took several General Assemblies to build majority support – again, the ‘marathon’ approach to public policy. So while we are dismayed by this session’s outcome on anti-discrimination protection for LGBT Hoosiers, we have the same unwavering commitment to expanded civil rights as a matter of fairness and economic competitiveness.
Entering the Home Stretch:
But even long-distance races have moments when the pace turns frenetic – and with second-chamber committee deadlines on the horizon, we expect a rush of action on a number of education/workforce proposals and other bills of interest next week, and more clarity on the transportation issue. Stay tuned as we push towards the home stretch and the mid-March finish line.