By Hannah Troyer
INDIANAPOLIS – With a proposed 3 percent cut in the state’s mass transit budget for 2016, a coalition is pushing for an almost $18 million increase in funding instead.
The Indiana Citizens’ Alliance for Transit has launched the Invest INtransit campaign – focused on increasing the state’s public mass transportation spending to match increased ridership.
According to the Indiana Department of Transportation’s 2013 annual report, ridership increased 15 percent from 2004 to 2013.
“Transit funding is critical for the economic livelihood of businesses, communities and individuals throughout Indiana,” said Kim Irwin, executive director of Health by Design, which convenes the alliance. “It simply doesn’t make sense to flatline or reduce transit spending when the demand for service in Indiana continues to increase.”
For the past seven years, the budget for the Public Mass Transportation Fund has remained constant at $42.5 million. The 65 public and nonprofit agencies that operate the public transportation system said they often have to turn down or reschedule requests because they do not have to funds to buy more buses or hire more drivers.
The Pence administration has proposed cutting the budget by 3 percent this year. Kara Brooks, the governor’s press secretary said the reduction is the same as “other executive branch agency reductions per State Budget Agency’s budget instructions and consistent with past practice.”
She did comment on the alliance’s request for additional money.
But Rep. Randy Truitt, R-Lafayette, has introduced House Bill 1215 this session that would boost the fund to $60 million. The bill has been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee but has not received a hearing. And the House Republican version of the budget has yet to be released.
Meanwhile in the Senate, Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, hasn’t seen the bill or started reviewing the transit budget. He said he has no opinion now about how much might be available for the programs.
Hannah Troyer is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.