...and isn't it about time the media started telling it?
An article in the current issue (3/2/09) of the Indianapolis Business Journal (IBJ) is headlined, "Hotels wary of shouldering larger load." Reference is to the availability of an increase in the innkeeper's tax to support the outrageous monetary policies of the Capital Improvement Board (CIB).
Granted, the basic approach of the article does concern the effect of the hotel tax on visitors. But we strongly resent the general tone of the story which consistently refers to the multiple sources of revenue for the CIB as "hospitality" taxes, including the food and beverage tax, with the implication that outside visitors would be the only payers.
Thousands upon thousands of resident taxpayers of this county, who will never see the inside of the palatial facilities the CIB builds and operates, pay the food and beverage tax every working day when they leave their workplace for a regular meal. They are not visitors, and they do not have a reasonable alternative to paying that tax.
The article makes many references to whether the city can remain "competitive" in the convention business with higher hotel taxes. But the next-to-last paragraph slides over a supremely important question which desperately needs the glare of the public spotlight.
"Marion County passed the first food and beverage tax in the state in the 1980s, to help fund the construction of the RCA Dome in hopes of luring an NFL team to Indianapolis. That tax, which never was rescinded, established a precedent for other communities to follow." (Our emphasis.)
The RCA Dome has been destroyed with virtually nothing of the principal debt having been retired. Are we to dismiss the disappearance of 25 years worth of revenue from that tax as irrelevant trivia?
The agreement for funding the new stadium, in part, says the "increase" of that tax - from 1% to 2% - will be used. The original 1% tax apparently is still disappearing into that black hole surrounded by the smoke and mirrors so prevalent around downtown finances.
Now the economic prophets, who have told us time and again about the tremendous benefits these downtown, pie-in-the-sky fantasies are for the "city," are going to tell us, "Oops. Sorry, but we're now going to have to triple the original tax to pay for a building that no longer exists and to meet other expenses which came as a complete surprise to us!"
Except that the word "sorry" probably won't appear. We're more likely to be told how stupid it would be to force the issue with the owners of the professional sports franchises. Nor are we apt to get a definition of the word "city" in identifying precisely where all these "benefits" fall.
It is time for a showdown. Not one penny more of public funds should be made available until valid explanations are forthcoming about all CIB financial machinations, including the aiding and abetting by political, business and media leadership.
Where did these tax dollars go? Would any new funds actually pay the new stadium debt or will they also disappear?
It is time for someone to step up, put a hand on the Bible, and swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth in answering all these questions.