A key city-county council committee approved a controversial plan last week to expand Indianapolis’ large, lucrative downtown tax-increment financing district.

The expansion would advance a roughly $50 million economic development project that includes renovation of a fire station and new residential and retail buildings along a key downtown corridor, according to local reports.

Democrats on the council panel had planned to oppose the plan unless Mayor Greg Ballard’s administration reforms the city’s policies on tax increment financing, which is frequently tapped to promote economic development.

But the plan passed the Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee meeting last week by 5 to 1, with Democrats signing on after the administration agreed to spend $13.5 million on workforce training and to increase minority worker participation,

The full Indianapolis-Marion County City County Council still needs to approve the proposal, and could vote on it as soon as Sept. 17.

Critics say the heavy use of TIFs drains too much money from schools and libraries and other public institutions. A group of council members last summer formed a bipartisan TIF study committee and wants the administration to implement new policies.

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