Bill aims to give Gary an economic shot in the arm
By Matt Mikus firstname.lastname@example.org January 15, 2013 9:26PM
Gamers play baccarrat at the Majestic Star in Gary August 24, 2009. | File Photo~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 17, 2013 6:35AM
INDIANAPOLIS — A bill introduced by state Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, could offer economic development opportunities for Gary, a measure allowing an inland casino within city limits and access to up to $3 million in revenue collected over time from the Gary Sanitary District.
The same bill, introduced to the Indiana Senate on Tuesday, would decrease the maximum property tax levy of the Gary Sanitary District to zero, take away one of the two existing casino licenses in Gary, and reorganize the Gary International Airport Authority to include five appointed members from the governor’s office, raising the number on the board to 11 members.
The state currently allows two casino licenses in Gary. Under existing law, no casinos in Indiana are land-based.
The new airport board would consist of four members appointed from the city of Gary, one member appointed by Lake County, one member appointed by Porter County, and five members appointed by the governor. One appointee must come from a list of nominees from either Portage or Valparaiso, another from a list of nominees from Hammond, East Chicago or Crown Point. Two appointees must have experience in either aviation, regional economic development or business, and the last appointee will serve as the board’s chairman.
The new bill is a strong starting point for economic development, Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said Tuesday. Two years ago, the sanitary district board offered the funds to the city of Gary, but there was no legal recourse to provide the funds.
“Everyone agreed it made sense,” Freeman-Wilson said, “but there was no mechanism to make it happen. It was released, but right now it’s just out there. They couldn’t just give it to Gary.”
In order to use the funds, the city needed specific legislation from the General Assembly.
There could be some push back against the amount of involvement for the airport, but she said she understands the state’s concern that the airport’s development has not progressed as effectively as state lawmakers might have hoped.
“It’s a starting point. We’ll make our position known to them, and we’ll go through whatever differences there may be,” Freeman-Wilson said. “In the legislature, you don’t get anything without some bartering. Now that the bill has been filed, the discussions can begin.”
“This is a great way forward. You haven’t seen that kind of legislation for the area in terms of economic development for a long time.”