As some you know, I am not from Indianapolis. I am from that big city about 180 miles north on I-65, Chicago. Now when I say Chicago, I do not mean a milquetoast suburb, I mean I am from the city part of the city, the southside. I grew up near 79th and Western. Went to White Sox games. And did all the stuff that city kids do. I also rode the bus to high school and to just about anywhere else. And even when I moved to Europe for a few years after I graduated, my life was buses and trains, in fact I didn't own a car until I was 23. I had to get one because I was moving to a place where mass transit really did not exist.
I bring all this up because local leaders in Marion and Hamilton County are about to head over to the Statehouse next January and try to get a referendum in front of the voters so Local Option Income Taxes (LOITs) can be used to pay for it. It gets a little technical but the way LOITs work is that they can only be used for certain purposes and it takes Legislative approval to allow them to be used for mass transit. And part of that will be a referendum.
If I had my way, I'd just give the locals the authority to raise taxes and move the money as they see fit and referendum would not be necessary, my only requirement would be transparency and accountability. I am not a fan of referenda, per se. I philosophically believe that we hire elected officials to do a job and we hold them accountable. That said, if a referendum Is what it takes to get this to happen, so be it.
And I will say if I was in the voting booth, and saw the question in front of me, I would likely vote yes. For two reasons, first by my rough guestimate, the increase in LOIT would likely cost me and Lovely Mrs. Shabazz less than $200 annually and that's on the high side. For us, that's a date night out with dinner, drinks, and whatever event we go to. I am willing to stay in that night and watch something on Netflix and order pizza if it means more ways for people to get to work.
What finally sold me on the mass transit issue here in Indianapolis is that if people don't have a means to get to where the jobs are then that means there will be more of them on the public dole. And that means more welfare, more social services, more food stamps and lot of other things that I really don't enjoy paying for. Also when we have a stronger economy we can get stronger families, which means a better society overall. And here's a thought, expanded bus service can also be used by high school students. The school districts can buy year-round bus cards for their juniors and seniors. The kids can use the bus to get to school and then use it to get to their part-time jobs. The hits just keep on coming.
The best social program is gainful employment. It solves a multitude of issues. And if we can have increased bus and rail service in Central Indiana we can move more people to where the jobs are. Time to get on the bus!