Senate panel OKs stadium financing plan
Bill that would fund Colts stadium and convention center expansion relies heavily on tax hikes.
By Matthew Tully
April 4, 2005
With a host of tax increases on things such as hotel rooms and restaurant tabs, a Senate Committee unanimously approved a financing plan this morning for a new Colts stadium and expansion of the Indiana Convention Center.
The plan, amended into House Bill 1120, calls for new 1 percent restaurant taxes in Marion County and the seven surrounding counties that touch it. Hotel tax rates would jump from 6 percent to 9 percent and local car rental taxes would double, to 4 percent, in Marion County only.
Additionally, fans going to Colts games in the new stadium would pay a $3 ticket tax. A $1 tax would be charged for other stadium events. An existing admissions tax would go from 5 percent to 6 percent.
In all, the tax increases, as well as other money generated at Indianapolis sports and convention facilities, would raise about $53.5 million annually -- enough, city and state officials said, to fund the roughly $900 million project.
The Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee adopted the amendment 11-0, setting up a possible debate in front of the full Senate as early as this week. The funding plan was crafted by Gov. Mitch Daniels and Tax Committee Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, but included elements first proposed by Mayor Bart Peterson.
"I think we've made enormous progress, I really do," Peterson said.
While saying the funding portion of the issue appears to be nearing agreement, the mayor raised objections about a move by Daniels and Kenley, both Republicans, to assign oversight of the project to a new state financing authority.
The mayor, a Democrat, says oversight should continue to be the charge of the city's Capital Improvement Board. That body oversees city convention and sports facilities and has guided the construction of Conseco Fieldhouse, Victory Field, and expansions of the RCA Dome and the convention center.
"Let the people do it that have been doing it for 30 years," the mayor said.
Daniels' budget director, Charles Schalliol, however, said a new state financing authority would guard the state's interest in the project.
Under the mayor's plan, the Capital Improvement Board would oversee the project, but its membership would grow from nine members to 11. The two new members would come from the governor's administration.
Under Daniels' proposal, a seven-member building authority would guide the financing and construction of the project. The governor and the mayor would each appoint two members. Three others -- the Speaker of the House, the Senate President Pro Tem and the suburban counties -- would have one representative.
In essence, the governor's proposal would put Republicans in control of naming five of the board's seven members.
A major part of today's debate centered on the financing of the project. Schalliol argued the state could finance the project at lower rates than the city. Peterson strongly denied that, saying the city's stellar credit rating ensures low finance rates.
But the mayor seemed to frustrate some members of the committee by agreeing the project could be financed at $53.5 million a year -- about $15 million less than he initially asked for.
Peterson said his initial numbers were conservative and pointed out that he promised any money raised but not needed for the project would revert to the state.
Still, Kenley, the chairman, said he could have used the lower figure as he tried to craft a financing plan.
"You could have saved me a public beating," Kenley said, referring to an earlier plan he unveiled to raise more money that the mayor now says is needed