Millions of dollars in IndyGo’s public funding could be put on hold if a bill at the Indiana Statehouse becomes law.
House Bill 1279 on Tuesday afternoon passed through the Indiana Senate 43-7. A conference committee will next review the measure for any tweaks before it gets final legislative approval and heads to the governor’s desk.
IndyGo says, if the bill is approved, Marion County’s rapid transit bus lines could be in limbo. House Bill 1279 would cut 10% of IndyGo’s taxpayer money.
State Sen. Aaron Freeman, a Republican from Indianapolis, told News 8, “The amendment doesn’t say we’re going to withhold all of it. It doesn’t say we are shutting IndyGo down. It says we’re going to withhold 10%. That they need to have some skin in the game. It also says we need to have a public conversation about whether mass transit is sustainable in this county.”
Inez Evans, IndyGo chief executive officer, told News 8 that IndyGo ridership has risen 8% over last year. She said IndyGo could lose from $5 million-$6 million per year.
Evans said, “The routes that were an hour and are now moving to 30 minutes, or routes moving from 40 minutes to 15 minutes. That (Route) 8 that goes every trip (to the airport), all that goes backward.”
The CEO also said the planned Blue and Purple bus rapid transit lines could be threatened.
“It does have the great potential to stop those things. A significant amount of the investment we’re making is not only from IndyGo’s funds, it’s also from the federal government. They are supplying 50% of our funding. To put that into perspective, for Purple and for Blue lines, that’s about $180 million investment from the federal government toward infrastructure improvement alone,” Evans said.
She added, “We may have to consider how we’re going to have to rollback some of the changes. We may decide as a board that we cannot afford to roll out the June service plan as originally proposed.”
Freeman, who created the bill’s amendment affecting IndyGo, argues it means accountability. He said, as part of an agreement five years ago, IndyGo was supposed to form a nonprofit and start raising private money.
“Current law, right now, today, requires IndyGo to raise 10% of their funds through private services. Not fares, not grants, not tax revenue,” Freeman said. “They failed to do so.”
Freeman insist taxpayers have been on the hook for millions of dollars.
Others are weighing in on the potential impact.
Shelley Specchio, chief executive officer of MIBOR Realty Association told News 8, “Our concern is that that would have a huge impact on the Purple and Blue lines and the connectivity that makes this whole system work is really important, especially to Realtors.”
Mark Fisher, the chief policy officer of the Indy Chamber, said, “We had a referendum in 2016 and the voters overwhelmingly supported, 60-40 to expand transit service. This undoes the will of the Indianapolis voter.”
Fisher told News 8 there’s still time the bill to be altered.
Indiana’s 2020 legislative session is scheduled to end next week.
You can read full statements from Freeman and Congressman Andre Carson (D-7) by clicking here.