CHICAGO - The Indiana General Assembly convenes today for a special session to take up Gov. Mitch Daniels' proposed budget that now includes a proposal to raise Indianapolis-area tourism taxes as part of a plan to overhaul the deficit-ridden Marion County board that manages three local stadiums.
Under the plan announced by the governor and Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard on Thursday, the Marion County Capital Improvement Board - which issues debt as the Marion County Convention and Recreation Facilities Authority - would be merged with the Marion County Building Authority.
The new entity would be known as the Marion County Facilities Management Board with oversight of 13 facilities. The General Assembly created the Capital Improvment Board in 1965 to manage construction of the new convention center.
The CIB currently manages the convention center, Lucas Oil Stadium - where the National Football League's Indianapolis Colts play; Conseco Fieldhouse where the National Basketball Association's Indiana Pacers play, and Victory Field, home of the minor league team the Indianapolis Indians. The Building Authority manages the city and county's main administration building, county jail and other facilities.
The new board would be governed by nine members including three appointed by the Indianapolis mayor, two by Marion County commissioners, two by the governor, and one by the Indianapolis City-County Council. One spot would be reserved for the president of the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Daniels and Ballard, both Republicans, touted the plan as the most acceptable means to address the CIB's $47 million deficit and concerns over its management. Other proposals have recommended increases in the alcohol tax or seeking more financial support from the teams.
"This protects our convention and hospitality business here in central Indiana. That was really the main point," Ballard said.
The proposals to overhaul the board came from two independent studies that analyzed operations at other stadiums.
"There were a lot of redundancies in category after category, especially on the personnel side," Daniels said. "There's lots and lots of people and spending beyond what seems to be necessary if you look at any other comparable facility."
The CIB fiscal 2009 budget totaled $78 million, including $32 million for debt service payments. In March, officials increased the projected deficit in fiscal 2010 to $47 million from $43 million as tax revenues are not keeping pace with rising operating costs.
The plan calls for $27 million in spending reductions, including $4 million in debt service costs on insurance payments. The city will provide a moral obligation pledge behind the CIB's debt service account and the state would provide a secondary moral obligation pledge. New revenue of $20 million would come from countywide tax increases on hotel rooms, car rentals, the admissions tax and from the diversion of sales and income taxes in a new sports development area.
The fate of the plan is now in the hands of both the General Assembly and local city and county board members. Some Republicans have made favorable statements about the plan in recent days, but others have raised concerns over swift approval of any overhaul plan. Democrats are pushing for more regional tax support.
In the legislature, the issue also could get caught up in disputes over the budget. The Senate is controlled by Republicans and the House by Democrats. Lawmakers adjourned in April after failing to reach a budget agreement and are meeting in a special session called by Daniels after he released his new two-year budget proposal to reflect a $1 billion drop in revenues.
The CIB, through the Convention and Recreation Facilities Authority, last issued debt in 2003 when it sold $70 million of refunding excise tax revenue bonds. It issued $23 million in 2001 and $222 million in 1997, according to Thomson Reuters. Some issuance for CIB facilities was done by the state bond bank and through another entity known as the Indiana Stadium and Convention Building Authority.