Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Letter from Indianapolis Mayor Ballard on CIB Bail Out

It seems that the news is all about Bail Outs lately (unless it's about Pirates), and that is now hitting closer to home here in Indianapolis. I'm not completely up to date on the CIB Bail Out (and maybe I should be before I post on it), but this email from Mayor Ballard's office seems to make sense to me.

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I hope this finds you well.  As you are likely aware of the financial problems facing the city's Capital Improvement Board, I wanted to reach out and update you on my position regarding the various proposals being discussed.

The Capital Improvement Board is a vital part of our city.  Its role in funding facilities, special events, and projects throughout Indianapolis is critical to the economic vitality of not only downtown, but also to our neighborhoods, the region, and the state. 

Facilities including the Indiana Convention Center, Lucas Oil Stadium, Conseco Fieldhouse, and Victory Field bring millions of people to Indianapolis.  Millions of visitors generate significant business; hotel, restaurant, and retail, which in turn, provides thousands of Hoosier jobs and produces revenues that fuel the regional and state economies.  The Indianapolis hospitality industry draws an estimated 22 million people annually, drives $3.5 billion in the Central Indiana economy, and employs over 66,000 Hoosiers.

Finding a solution to the problems facing the CIB is absolutely imperative as it directly impacts the employees and their families who depend on these 66,000 jobs.  Additionally, it impacts the long-term financial health of the city and the resources available to strengthen our neighborhoods.

Finding a solution is important to the regional economy because many employers locate and remain in Central Indiana because of our vibrant Downtown.  And it is important to the state economy as Marion County contributes $975 million to the state; this represents 18% of the state's total sales tax revenues.

Over the last several months we've worked closely with state and city leaders to develop solutions to fund this vital entity.  There are several components to the proposals making their way through the State House and it appears, with great regret, that local tax dollars will be needed as part of the solution. 

I am committed to enacting a solution that protects the 66,000 Hoosiers employed in the hospitality industry and minimizes the burden on all Marion County taxpayers.  The solution must also involve the users of the facilities and those who most directly benefit from them.

It is for these reasons that I am opposed to the proposal for a broad-based food and beverage tax, and I am opposed to any increase in property or income taxes.  While I certainly prefer not to have to consider tax increases of any type, I believe we should look first to users and visitors in the form of rental cars, hotels, and tickets.  And we must consider an optional expense, like alcohol alone, that draws more from visitors and facility users.

Additionally, I have asked the state for an expansion of the Professional Sports Development Area to include the JW Marriott and allow for the redirection of that tax revenue from the state to the county.  I join Senator Luke Kenley and several legislative leaders in asking the Indianapolis Colts and the Indiana Pacers to each contribute $5 million.  And, in tightening our belts, we have already proposed cutting $8 million from the CIB operating budget. 

This proposal is true to my pledge that the burden for solving this problem should fall mainly on those who use and profit from these facilities.  That's why we've worked diligently to craft a solution that doesn't involve broad-based taxes on food, income, or property.  Additionally, I ask that the General Assembly and City-County Council consider sun-setting any proposed taxes, as there are several variables that may change the situation in the years to come.

Please know that I'm committed to continue working with state and city legislative leaders to enact a solution that will bolster our important economic engine that provides 66,000 jobs to Hoosiers and generates millions of dollars in revenues that are critical to the county, regional and state economies.

As always, I welcome your input and appreciate your consideration of this proposal.


Gregory A. Ballard
City of Indianapolis

Paid for and authorized by the Ballard for Mayor Committee, Jim Merritt Chairman

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