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The Indiana State Senate passed an Indiana transit bill Monday that includes language to penalize IndyGo for its failure to follow a state statute and establish a not-for-profit foundation to enhance bus service funding in a timely manner.

House Bill 1279 is a bill that divvies out funding for local transportation projects. An amendment added to the bill by Indianapolis Republican State Rep. Aaron Freeman would cut the amount of money IndyGo gets from the state by 10-percent if they don’t meet certain requirements.

“The amendment doesn’t say we’re going to withhold all of it. It doesn’t say we are shutting IndyGo down. It says we’re going to withhold 10-percent,” Freeman told WISH-TV. “That they need to have some skin in the game.”

Freeman, a former City-County councilor representing Franklin Township, explained he learned less than a month ago that IndyGo had not complied with the state statute that enabled establishment of a new transit tax in Marion County that required the bus system to create a foundation to raise 10% matching funds the first year the newly launched Red Line went into effect.

IndyGo CEO Inez Evans said the bus service could lose from $5 million-$6 million per year and that the cut in funding might put plans for the Blue and Purple Lines in jeopardy.

“It does have the great potential to stop those things,” Evans said. “A significant amount of the investment we’re making is not only from IndyGo’s funds, but it’s also from the federal government. They are supplying 50% of our funding.”

But Freeman argues the bill is supposed to hold IndyGo accountable.

“Current law, right now, today, requires IndyGo to raise 10-percent of their funds through private services. Not fares, not grants, not tax revenue,” Freeman said. “They failed to do so.”

Democrat Rep. Andre Carson said in a statement he was “extremely concerned by any attempt to prevent Indianapolis from becoming a world-class city,” calling HB 1279 a poison pill that seeks to destroy our vision for quality mass transit.”

WIBC host Tony Katz offered the following comments on the matter Wednesday morning:

“It shouldn’t take the state saying ‘you didn’t do what you were supposed to do’ to jeopardize the blue line and the purple line, there should be no blue line and purple line. The people of Indianapolis don’t actually want it.” 

The bill now returns to the house where IndyGo senate supporters hope the penalizing language will be stripped out in a conference committee.

Click the link below to hear Tony’s full commentary.

(Photo: WISH-TV)