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INDIANAPOLIS–It’s kind of like a “GofundMe infrastucture tax.” 

Those are the words Republican member of the Indiana Senate Jim Merritt, who is taking on incumbent Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett in the November election. That’s what he called Hogsett’s regional infrastructure fund idea that he discussed at the State of the City address earlier this week.

That fund would take a percentage of income taxes from the nine surrounding counties of Indianapolis and put that money into a collective fund. 

“I’ve never supported an infrastructure tax for the region. It is a commuter tax. One thing everybody needs to know is this regional idea of governance is a good idea. We did regional cities for a couple of years and had some great results,” Merritt told 93 WIBC’s Tony Katz Friday morning. 

He said northwest Indiana has had a Regional Development Authority for 14 years. 

“It did not come quickly. All the cities up there had to work together to get the confidence of the legislature and get the confidence of the Governor,” Merritt continued.  

Merritt says he has spoken to other mayors around Indianapolis and they think the concept is solid. 

“However, I think we need to talk about Homeland security. We need to talk about economic development. We need to talk about infrastructure. This region not only has to compete with the rest of Indiana. We have to compete with other regions of the United States,” Merritt said. 

Katz asked Merritt why he is not in favor of working as a region when it comes to Indianapolis roads. 

“Most of the rest of Indiana expects Indianapolis to take care of itself. We have to figure out exactly what our problem is so we can slay the problem. Having a re-evaluation of all the streets of Indianapolis is the first step,” Merritt said. 

Merritt said infrastructure is one of the biggest responsibilities of the Mayor and the City-County Council.  He was asked if Mayor Hogsett is solely responsible for the potholes and the poor road conditions across Indianapolis. 

“I do. The buck stops with the Mayor. When the legislature in 2017 sent $52 million to the City of Indianapolis and they placed that money in a rainy day fund, they did not spend that money in 2017 to prepare us for winter in 2018. We paid the piper. The streets were a mess last winter and they were a mess this year,” Merritt said. 

Merritt’s Vision for Indianapolis 

Merritt says he believes in an aggressive approach to economic development. 

“I believe the Mayor of Indianapolis should be working around the world, traveling with the Governor, and being the face of Indianapolis,” Merritt said. 

He said a mayor’s vision is not just about getting the “meat and potatoes” right like infrastructure and snow removal. 

“You need a robust, aggressive approach to the development of Indianapolis. Whether you’re talking about Rethink 70, redeveloping the White River, taking the tracks out of Union Station and making that an urban trail, we need to challenge ourselves,” Merritt said. 

Merritt says Indianapolis is used to leaders thinking outside the box with previous mayors like Richard Lugar and Bill Hudnut. Merritt is running for Mayor in the November election against Hogsett.  

(PHOTO: Indy Politics / Abdul Hakim-Shabazz)