STATEHOUSE — Republican lawmakers at the statehouse are targeting IndyGo in a bill that would likely put the future of the Purple and Blue Line Projects in jeopardy in Indianapolis if it were to become law.
The bill, authored by Brookville State Sen. Aaron Freeman, changes the definition of tax money as recognized by the state when it comes to rapid transit bus projects.
Under current state law, IndyGo must get at least 10-percent of its operating expenses for expanded projects, such as the existing Red Line, from places other than taxes and fares. IndyGo go says they are in compliance with that statute now since they get the rest of their funding from federal grants.
But, a recent opinion from Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita says he defines federal grant money as tax dollars. Freeman’s bill would make that opinion law, effectively putting IndyGo out of compliance.
“The Indiana Attorney General declares what the law is in Indiana, and that’s the opinion I’m going with,” Freeman told WISH-TV.
Freeman said he has a problem with rapid bus transit in Indianapolis. After the completion of the Red Line in 2019, Freeman said it’s not feasible for traffic in Indy by taking away lanes of roads for rapid bus transit. He also feels it’s not financially viable.
“We need to be asking these questions now as opposed to later,” he said. “If you’re a commuting person who has got to get to work in a car, good luck.”
Lesley Gordon, public relations officer with IndyGo, said if the bill passes it would put IndyGo in a world of hurt, especially with the Red Line done, but the Purple and Blue Line projects having not been done yet.
“It’s designed to work together,” she said. “So, we’d be like a one-legged stool if those projects don’t continue.”
“The fact that they (Freeman) had to change the language shows they are changing the way it was originally written and what we’re already in compliance with,” Gordon said.
The bill passed a Senate committee 7-5 with one Republican joining four other Democrats in voting “no” on the measure.
The State Senate will vote on the bill Tuesday, and if it passes it will head to the Indiana House for review. If it becomes law, IndyGo’s federal grant money would be considered tax dollars, and thus 10-percent of their funding would have to come from other means like advertising.