- Courtesy of Monroedb1 via Flickr Creative Commons
Gov. Mike Pence has signed legislation meant to provide funding for a mass transit expansion in Central Indiana.
The law authorizes officials in Marion, Madison, Johnson, Hancock, Hamilton, and Delaware counties to seek voter permission to raise income taxes to fund a regional bus system.
The goal is to add more buses and more routes to connect more areas.
The law's author, Sen. Pat Miller, R-Indianapolis, said it will give Central Indiana residents "the opportunity to decide on a mass transit plan that works best for them."
"For a mass transit plan to work in Indiana, it is going to require support from those who would be most affected," Miller said. "This is the voter's transportation system and it should ultimately be their decision."
At the instances of majority Republicans in the Senate, the law also bans counties from adding light rail train lines to their systems and requires officials to seek corporate support for the system.
The original Senate bill had created a corporate tax to help pay for an expanded system. But the House removed that language.
The bill passed with support from a broad coalition of local officials, business leaders and environmental groups that argued a modern mass transit system is necessary to keep the region vibrant.
Tim Maloney, senior policy director for the Hoosier Environmental Council, said the law will "help central Indiana move ahead in planning and building an environmentally-friendly and economically-valuable public transportation system for the region."
"There is still much work to be done before this new transit system becomes reality, but Indiana's new transit law is clearly a milestone achievement in this effort," Maloney said.
It's now up to local officials in six counties to decide whether to seek a referendum that will give them additional money for the program.