Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard made his plea today before members of the budget conference committee for over $45 million in funding to rescue the city’s Capital Improvement Board (CIB).
According to Ballard, the CIB has a “three to four-year hump to get over. We’re at risk until that point.”
At risk are major sports events such as the Big Ten basketball tournaments, the men’s NCAA Final Four, the 2012 Super Bowl and the convention center expansion.
Representative Terry Goodin (D-Austin) asked the mayor if his “proposal would take care of the board’s deficit or is it just another Band-Aid” – with more dollars needed down the road. Ballard replied, “I feel pretty comfortable with this going forward…I don’t want to come back (for more money) – nobody wants us to come back.”
Ballard pointed out several times the connection of CIB activities to the entire state, referencing that the majority (60%) of traffic to the downtown sports facilities, Circle Centre mall, etc. is from out of town.
Though overall sympathetic to the mayor’s predicament, some registered displeasure that one area of the state would receive such significant financial attention.
Representative Bill Crawford (D-Indianapolis): “One of the caveats I’ve stated all along is that I support this, but by my own calculations, I can count only 21 legislators representing Marion County – and that’s a problem. Other areas of the state have problems too.”
Crawford also encouraged his fellow legislators to keep the Indianapolis Indians baseball team in mind when looking at the mayor’s proposed increase in the admission tax, which he said could adversely affect the most affordable sports option for families,
Representatives Dennis Avery (D-Evansville) and Eric Turner (R-Marion) raised questions over Ballard’s proposed $2 million increase in the Professional Sports Development Area (PSDA) from $8 million to $10 million. These additional funds would come to the CIB via the retention of more funds – as opposed to going into the state coffers. These two legislators were concerned with how this would look to other cities like Fort Wayne and Evansville with professional sports teams but already receiving significantly less funding.
Meanwhile, Rep. Jeff Espich (R-Uniondale) worried that helping the CIB “would open it up for others to try to fix gaming and other issues elsewhere ….we will be doomed if that happens.”
One voice of reason in all of this was Sen. Lindel Hume (D-Princeton), who seemed to be tired of hearing that no one outside of Marion County truly cared about the CIB funding woes.
“I live in rural Princeton and I care. The CIB represents a significant investment in future revenue for Indiana,” he notes. “If we don’t do something, Circle Centre (mall) will close; we will lose dollars. If we don’t do something, the conventions will leave; we will lose dollars. This is as important as a large manufacturer to the state.”
But perhaps Rep. Cherrish Pryor (D-Indianapolis) made the best case for providing the CIB with the requested money. “The state receives a much greater amount in return – roughly half a billion dollars – than what CIB is asking us for.”
It would appear then that some common ground must be reached and CIB funding included in the state budget, despite the shortness of time. (Crawford noted a bill must be printed by Sunday to present to the House.)