Indianapolis voters will head to the polls in November to approve or deny a mass transit referendum, and Mayor Joe Hogsett isn’t trying to sway them one way or the other. According to the IndyStar, Hogsett said he supports improving the transit system, but he’s stopping short of telling voters they should vote yes to raise their personal income taxes to pay for it. He’s urging voters to educate themselves on the issue instead.
“Why have a referendum if the public is to be strong armed?” Hogsett asked. “The appropriate role of the elected officials should be to help and inform voters.”
He added, “I am sensitive to the fact that some people oppose it.”
Indianapolis’ council was divided on whether to send the transit referendum to the voters at all, ultimately approving it 18-6. “I have some concerns with the proposal,” Councilwoman LaKeisha Jackson said at the time of the vote, “but that is not what tonight is about.” The tax hike — about one quarter per $100 earned — would generate $56 million a year for IndyGo, the city’s bus service. That funding would be used to modernize and improve bus services, add longer hours and more vehicles to existing routes, and help to cover operation costs for three planned bus rapid transit lines.
One of those routes, the Red Line, is already in the final planning stages and awaiting $75 million from feds this fall. With that funding, it will be built with or without the income tax hike, but if the referendum fails, the rest of the city’s bus routes would “continue running on the same schedules that most transit officials, lawmakers and passengers agree is insufficient now,” according to the IndyStar.
Several other local politicians in support of transit expansion told the IndyStar they would also not endorse the referendum outright, though they thought the mayor’s support would help its chances.
Property taxes are capped in Indiana, so income taxes have increasingly been used to cover city expenditures.
Jen Kinney is a freelance writer and documentary photographer. Her work has also appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, High Country News online, and the Anchorage Press. She is currently a student of radio production at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. See her work at jakinney.com.