Transit bill isn’t specific enough

Commentary by John V. Accetturo

House Bill 1011, which is referred to as the Mass Transit Bill, recently passed the House and is pending action in the State Senate. Three of the seven sponsors of the bill in the House are Jerry Torr (R-Carmel), Steve Braun (R-Carmel/Zionsville) and Todd Huston (R-Fishers). Four Democrats and another Republican also are sponsors. The mere combination of the sponsors might bring on a buyer beware reaction even to an opened minded person.

The bill authorizes a metropolitan transit district to (1) construct or acquire any public transportation facility; (2) provide public transportation service by operating public transportation facilities; and (3) issue bonds and incur indebtedness. If a county approves the local public question, there will be an additional county economic development income tax rate of up to .3 percent to fund the transit district. For residents of Hamilton County, that will be a 30-percent increase on all income including retirement.

Reading the bill’s details, I discovered that a metropolitan transit district board would be created with as many 14 appointed members that can tax and determine which transportation system they would spend our tax money on. Seats on the board include a union representative from union employees of the district. Appointments to the board would be made by mayors, the governor, county commissioners, a union, etc. I just do not see how the interest of Hamilton County will be protected by a board as stated in the bill. Additionally, this will be another board created by government which will spend taxpayer money without being responsible to the taxpayers like elected officials are.

There are a few specifics in the bill, but there are no concrete details on what kind of transportation system might be built or how much it will cost. However, it does allow the board to pass a county economic development income tax of .3 percent if the referendum is passed by our county. The vote on this question would take place in 2014 for Hamilton and Marion counties if the bill passes the Senate and is signed into law.

We need better mass transportation. Voting to institute a tax without knowing what you are going to get and what the cost will be makes little sense. This bill asks us to vote ourselves a tax and let a 14-person board decide our fate. Or, just give us the money, and we will take care of you.

John Accetturro is a Carmel resident and former member of the Carmel City Council. You may e-mail him at accetturo4carmel@gmail.com.