NIRPC could buck South Shore expansion funding bill
By Carole Carlson email@example.com/302-0949 February 28, 2014 8:50PM
Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr.
Updated: April 2, 2014 6:13AM
PORTAGE — The Northwestern Indiana Regional Plan Commission will consider fast-tracking a resolution March 7 that opposes targeting a new-found cash bounty of $4 million a year for the extension of the South Shore commuter line at the expense of Hammond, Gary and East Chicago and Lake County.
Supporters of the resolution hope to derail the measure by the time the General Assembly adjourns March 14.
Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., chairman of NIRPC’s legislative committee, said the money should go to the county and the three cities. The money is derived from a low-income state tax credit collected from casino admissions in the three cities.
But an action this week in the House Ways and Means committee altered Senate Bill 367 to direct the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority to spend the money “to establish or improve public mass transportation systems in Lake County.”
The Senate bill attempted to close a long-standing tax loophole that provided a tax credit for low-income senior citizens, among several other tax measures. The current tax credit does not factor in retirement or investment income, making it possible for wealthy seniors to take the tax credit.
McDermott said the change could compromise a resolution NIRPC approved last year supporting the reauthorization of the RDA. Lake and Porter counties, Hammond, Gary and East Chicago all provide annual payments that support the RDA.
“I have 81,000 citizens and we have a chance to have $4 million come back to Lake County and it’s getting forwarded to the RDA. It definitely violates the provisions we talked about,” McDermott said.
Highland Clerk-Treasurer Michael Griffin drafted the resolution NIRPC will consider Friday.