Feb. 13--An Indiana House committee passed a bill that would allow counties in Central Indiana to fund a mass transit system with voter approval -- but only after making some changes that could upset their colleagues in the Senate.
The House Roads and Transportation Committee voted 11-1 in favor of the Senate Bill 1 after an hourlong hearing Wednesday. The measure passed the Senate last week.
The vote came after committee Chairman Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, successfully proposed several amendments to the bill. They included removing a requirement that a tax on businesses be used to fund 10 percent of any new mass transit system's operating costs.
Committee members also voted to add Hendricks County to the six counties already included in the bill and to delete a requirement that service be made available to "all citizens" of a county.
Those changes could create problems in the Senate, where members had praised the business tax provision.
The Indiana Chamber of Commerce and other business interests have lobbied for a mass transit expansion for years, saying it would drive economic development and help employees get to work. Some senators felt it was only fair that those businesses help pay for the expansion.
Sen. Patricia Miller, R-Indianapolis, who authored the bill, said she also had a problem with the committee's decision to remove the service availability requirement.
Most other aspects of the bill remain unchanged. It allows local governments to raise income taxes to fund an expansion and requires fares to cover 25 percent of the cost. Voters in each county would have to approve the expansion, and decisions about what type of transit system to build would be left to each county, though light rail would be prohibited.
House legislative leaders will decide whether to send the bill to the House Ways and Means Committee or directly to the full House.
Call Star reporter Tony Cook at (317) 444-6081. Follow him on Twitter: @indystartony.
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