In his March 8 commentary, the Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority (CIRTA) executive director implores us to "let your representatives know that you support improved transportation in Central Indiana." However, he fails to tell us how the creation of new regional transportation districts (RTDs) allowed by Indiana House Bill 1660 would impact taxpayers.
RTDs would be separate governmental entities that support public transportation systems. The fiscal bodies of counties may establish RTDs that are given 25 unrestricted general operating powers with the authority to issue 40-year bonds. A county must remain a member of an RTD at least ten years.
It is Taxpayer Unfriendly that an RTD has powers that exceed those of a redevelopment commission. Similar to the Indiana Code restrictions that apply to redevelopment commissions, the fiscal body of each county that establishes an RTD should be required to approve certain RTD decisions including eminent domain use, tax abatements, federal grant applications, and bond issues.
The power to govern an RTD is vested in a regional transportation board consisting of, from each participating county, two elected county officials and one city council member from each city. If CIRTA were to become an RTD, it would have a 28-member regional transportation board. HB 1660 would allow each of the nine CIRTA counties to impose a new county economic development income tax of 0.25% or 0.05% that the 28-member board would receive and decide how to spend. A CEDIT-paying resident of one of the 10 cities in the RTD would only directly elect a maximum of three of the 28 board members, and a non-city resident would only directly elect a maximum of two members. Sending local tax revenue to a government entity controlled by a board where most members have no real connection to the taxpayers' community is taxation without sufficient representation.
It is likewise Taxpayer UNfriendly that a county within an RTD may establish a special RTD allocation of county adjusted gross income taxes or county option income taxes. A special allocation would reduce CAGIT and COIT distributions to the local governing bodies in the county.
It is further Taxpayer UNfriendly that each county, city, town, and public transportation agency in a participating county may transfer funds to an RTD. If these funds leave the localities where they were raised, working family taxes will go up to replace them.
HB 1660 allows a regional transportation board to establish an allocation area where property taxes paid on the allocated assessed value would be captured by the RTD to pay for capital projects. It is Taxpayer UNfriendly that an RTD is able to undertake a capital project that is not subject to the referendum and petition and remonstrance provisions required of all local government entities. Any RTD capital project should be subject to referendum if it will cost more than $12 million. All voters in the counties comprising an RTD should be eligible for the referendum.
It should also be clearly stated in HB 1660 that 100 residents of the counties that established an RTD may initiate the petition and remonstrance process if a capital project will cost the RTD more than $2 million. The petition and remonstrance process should take place in all counties that established the RTD.
Please let your General Assembly members know that HB 1660 has so many Taxpayer UNfriendly provisions that it should not be passed without significant improvement. It makes no sense to establish another tax-soaking level of government when government reform proposals recommend the consolidation of local government units to achieve taxpayer savings. RTD capital projects would have too great an impact on taxpayers for the projects to be controlled by tax-abatement-manipulating developers and good-hearted zealots without the collective wisdom of voters to properly determine their usefulness. One Taxpayer Friendly solution for public transportation support is to dedicate some of the sales tax revenue from vehicle fuel sales to existing transportation districts, authorities, and agencies.
Aaron Smith, Founder www.watchdogindiana.org