Friday, February 22, 2013

On the IMS Tax Plan: Upon further review...

After reading this morning that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in the months leading up to asking for millions of our tax dollars greatly increased their political donations, I would like to revisit my endorsement from a few days back.  See below:

I may get lambasted for this one by some of my "no more tax money to billionaires" friends on this one, but I believe that, if done right, a little tax help for one of our state's icons is more than appropriate. 
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has sat by quietly as the Indiana Pacers, the Indianapolis Colts, and other local sporting entities have gotten millions of dollars in taxpayer money. They have been checks going out with little coming back in.
Long before the Indiana Pacers and the Indianapolis Colts existed as franchises and long before the NBA and NFL organized, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was bringing people to our city and our state for motor sports events and the motor sports industry. IMS owners, the Hulman-George Family, have spent an astronomical amount of their own money to upgrade their facility while asking for nothing and bringing in an unbelievable amount of money and prestige to Indianapolis and to Indiana.
 Why then, as a taxpayer, does it not make sense to give a little back to them? The bill, as written by Senator Mike Young, calls for IMS to receive $5 million a year in locally-generated (in a "motor sports investment district" encompassing the speedway) tax money over 20 years as a tax credit to make improvements to the facility. As you may remember, costly improvements are required to make the IMS facility more disabled-accessible. You can read about the proposal here. It actually sounds pretty reasonable for a Mike Young bill.
Is IMS worthy of receiving taxpayer money? Certainly it's much more worthy than an over $35 million handout to the Pacers. The Pacers unfortunately can't draw flies right now even though they are putting a great product on the floor. That's not the case at IMS. The track routinely packs in 250,000 race fans on Indy 500 race day with even more in the infield, and while the Brickyard 400 NASCAR race has lost some of its former luster, that's still another near 100,000 race fans packing the stands. 
When I first heard this proposed bill, I was strongly against it. After reading up on the plan, to me, it sounds like a solid plan and a different plan than the one the local government handed the Pacers. This is less of a hand out and more of a hand up for a longtime friend like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Hope that clears up any confusion.  I retract my endorsement.

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