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General assembly

Support extended for military bases

Bill frees aid to fight closures

– A Senate panel voted unanimously Wednesday to give local governments some flexibility in fighting for military bases in their communities that might be on a federal closure list.

Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, said Senate Bill 260 would allow local redevelopment commissions to spend money to support, promote and expand federal facilities.

He said communities could help improve infrastructure at the base, including roads or buildings, as part of making a case to retain a base.

“It’s a tool for them to offer incentives to stay,” Banks said.

He spoke specifically about Fort Wayne’s ongoing fight to keep in place the Air National Guard’s 122nd Fighter Wing, which employs hundreds and has a $58 million annual economic impact on the community.

Banks said there are no specific plans in the works. He proposed the bill as a proactive measure ahead of a possible base realignment and closure in 2016.

The most recent round of such changes, in 2005, shifted three F-16 fighter jets and more than 200 jobs to the Fort Wayne complex from bases in Terre Haute and Springfield, Ill.

The 122nd Fighter Wing later traded its squadron of F-16s for A-10 jets used for combat support for ground troops.

“This is our opportunity to tell the federal government we are serious about keeping that investment in our state,” Banks said.

The legislation now moves to the full Senate.