INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Does Indianapolis need a commuter tax to pay for its broken roads?
That will be one of the questions on the table once a new bipartisan commission to study and address the city's crumbling infrastructure begins work.
City-County Councilor Jared Evans has called for a new 10-person commission that will include both local and state leaders on both sides of the aisle.
"I think when you look at the funding sources for our city’s mechanism to help pay for the rebuild and re-pavement of roads, they’re a big part of that. So they need to be as educated as we are in what this problem is and how we got here so they can be a part of this solution," explained Evans.
But before his commission has even been created, there’s already criticism about who should have called for it.
"I really believe the Mayor should be involved and this is kind of like the tail wagging the dog," said Indiana Senator Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis).
Merritt has been one of the loudest critics of how Mayor Joe Hogsett has handled potholes. His issue: things feel temporary.
"The people in the legislature feel as though they are constantly sending money to Indianapolis for infrastructure. In 2016, it was $59 million. It was $7 million last year in additional gas taxes, and then from now on, somewhere between $25 and 30 million. And so the legislature wants to know where all the money is going," Merritt said. "It seems as though there’s a constant drumbeat for more money. And the credibility isn’t there when it’s constant like that.”
Merritt is eager to speak with Councilor Evans, especially about what he calls the "constant call for a commuter tax." However, he feels like the Mayor should be leading the way on this charge.
“The only way that’s going to be a viable issue is if all of our surrounding communities around Indianapolis come together and want to support. But there’s got to be a story that’s told. There’s got to be a narrative. There’s got to be convincing of people that money is not being wasted. That money is, that it will be used correctly. And the only way to do that is to create an infrastructure plan that everybody has buy in. There may be some risk. We just, I think legislators, people at the other end of Market St. need to know what's going on."
CBS4 reached out to the Mayor's office for a response to Sen. Merritt's criticism.
In a statement sent to us, Mayor Hogsett said:
“For more than two years, I have been having conversations with the City-County Council and members of the General Assembly about adequately funding the infrastructure needs of the City of Indianapolis. These discussions have and will continue to focus on creative, innovative approaches that address years of deferred roadway maintenance. And importantly, I have been clear that it is unacceptable to ask Marion County taxpayers alone to shoulder the tax burden for infrastructure that supports the metropolitan region.
As the City continues its review of these issues, I welcome the Council and the General Assembly’s engagement. This morning’s announcement demonstrates their willingness to once again set aside partisan politics to serve Indianapolis residents. I look forward to working with President Vop Osili and all of the City-County Councillors as they participate in hard conversations with local and state leaders to study decades of underfunded infrastructure.”
We were also sent a recent presentation prepared by the Mayor's team for the Marion County Legislative Delegation. A spokesman for the Mayor said it articulated the city’s fiscal challenges and infrastructure needs and was presented to legislators who chose to attend the November 2017 briefing with Mayor Hogsett and key members of the administration.