INDIANAPOLIS — A mass transit bill, which could lead to a tax increase in Madison County, will be considered today in the Indiana House Ways and Means Committee.
Chairman Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, heard testimony Monday on Senate Bill 176. It would enable several central Indiana counties, including Madison, to set up mass-transit programs. Brown decided to postpone a vote on the bill and several amendments until today to allow the Republican caucus time to discuss changes.
If the amendments are passed, the bill won’t look like the original one passed by the Senate last week. Proposed amendments would put the option for light rail back in the bill, take Hendricks County out of the list of counties and find some way to encourage corporations to lend money to the program.
The Senate version allowed for a voter referendum for mass transit funding in Delaware, Hamilton, Hancock, Johnson, Madison and Marion counties.
The House Roads and Transportation Committee stripped out language that originally had businesses paying 10 percent of the cost of a transit system. That committee had also added Hendricks County to the bill.
Rep. Gerald Torr, R-Carmel, the house sponsor of SB 176, said a proposed amendment would try to find a way to get some of that money back in without putting too much of a burden on corporations.
Torr was also in favor of adding light rail back into the bill as a transit option for communities to choose, if voters want to go that route.
“The prohibition of light rail takes away options for communities,” Torr said. “I don’t think it is a big deal if we put it back in.”
He said that the high cost of light rail makes it unlikely communities would opt for it, but he thought it was good to provide that option.
Sen. Pat Miller, R-Indianapolis, author of SB 176, said many of her colleagues in the Senate would like to see the corporation tax added back in.
“I think the Senate wants the business community to have some sort of payment for the plan,” Miller said.
Large corporations would be the only entities not paying for mass transit in some way through taxes, which is why the 10 percent payments were initially proposed. Miller said her concern about the proposed amendment is that the language may not be strong enough to get the amount of money necessary from corporations.
If the bill is passed, local community governments could pass a referendum allowing voters in a specific county to vote on whether they want a mass-transit system. The voters would also get to choose how much of a tax increase they would be willing to shoulder. The rate increases could range from 0.1 percent to 0.25 percent, depending on the voters.
The bill will have a vote today in Ways and Means; if it passes, it will go to a vote before the entire House.
Follow Zach Osowski on Twitter @Osowski_THB, or call 640-4847.
Bill amendments Proposed amendments to the mass transit bill, which is being considered by the Indiana House Ways and Means Committee: -- Add option for light rail -- Remove Hendricks County from list of eligible counties -- Add language incentivizing corporate partnerships