Lawmakers put off vote for $42 million for Regional Cities

February 26th, 2016

News Coverage:

February 25, 2016

Lawmakers put off vote for $42 million for Regional Cities

Holly Campbell

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Forty-two million dollars for the Regional Cities Initiative is still up in the air just days before the legislative session ends.

Lawmakers in the Ways and Means Committee heard testimony Wednesday from more than two dozen people urging them to approve a bill that would allot the money.

“These investments need to be made because it’s about attracting talent to the region and we can’t wait,” Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership President and CEO John Sampson said. “You can’t put that off.”

Right now that’s exactly what lawmakers are doing. After hearing the testimony this week they decided to put off a vote.

Here’s some background on the Regional Cities money. Last year lawmakers earmarked $84 million of tax amnesty money for the program. Originally only two regions were to be picked with each being awarded $42 million. However, in December Governor Mike Pence chose three winners and asked lawmakers for another $42 million so each region got the full amount. That brings us to this week with the bill going before the Ways and Means committee.

“We just wanted to express the importance of this opportunity to have $42 million invested into our quality of place in our region,” Greater Fort Wayne Inc. Director of Business Advocacy Melissa Beber said. “It will help have a significant impact in growing jobs and wages and our community pride as well.”

The focus of the testimony – think of the state as a whole.

“If these cities succeed the state succeeds,” Sampson said. “People outside of Indiana will talk about what’s going on here, so I really try to encourage the legislators to think about the impact for the state overall.”

If the money isn’t allotted officials said it will mean 14 million fewer dollars for the region and the 70 projects outlined in the Road to One Million plan.

“If we can’t get all the projects started now because we don’t have enough money to get them all started we want to get as many of the bigger projects, and I say big in terms of transformative impact not just in terms of dollars but the ones that have the most transformative impact on the communities, is what we want to focus on,” Sampson said.

The bill is on the Ways and Means committee agenda for Monday. That’s the last day for lawmakers to take any action on the $42 million.