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Web letter by Susan Fagin: Privately held speedway has no business getting our tax dollars

Some officials in the Indiana General Assembly seem to believe that the public coffers are mere piggy banks for use by corporate executives. Apparently Jeff Belskus, CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, agrees. The speedway (like Wall Street bankers before them), has asked the Indiana General Assembly to appropriate $100 million of taxpayers’ money to spruce up the 100-year-old racetrack.

Apparently, it never occurred to Belskus to take ownership of his own business and finance improvements internally. But why should he when Indiana has such malleable legislators? The speedway began its lobbying more than 18 months ago, so it has had quite some time to convince our public officials. I notice they even arranged for a documentary on the history of the racetrack to be aired. And on Indianapolis local news, the background set of the news broadcasts featured a gigantic photo of the raceway. But as usual in Indiana, the public is always last to know – another “done deal,” as our officials like to call these things.

Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis, has introduced a bill (SB 0069) that would create something creatively designated a “motor sports investment district,” from which sales taxes, income taxes and corporate taxes would flow not to the state of Indiana, but directly to the private, for-profit Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hulman & Co.

Indiana state officials have previously provided major subsidies to the owners of other privately owned projects in Indianapolis, including Lucas Oil Stadium. In every instance, public funds are being depleted from projects beneficial to all and used to grow private profits as officials attempt to convince the public that what is good for the wealthiest 1 percent is good for everybody.

Thousands of Hoosiers are suffering from these twisted policies. Taxpayer funds for public schools are being diverted to vouchers for charter schools – often operated by private for-profit groups (frequently owned by friends of the legislators). It is a racket, just like the other brilliant ideas our Republican-dominated state has used to try to eliminate all government functions and make every aspect of life a profit-making endeavor for themselves and their friends. Former Gov. Mitch Daniels gave away 75 years’ worth of tolls that would have been generated by the Indiana Toll Road to a foreign, private for-profit group in return for an inadequate one-time payment – and ever-increasing tolls for the people. Then he tried to help out IBM by handing the Indiana family services department over to that corporation. And we all know how that worked out.

Taxes are public funds and must be used to benefit everyone, whether through public schools, publicly used infrastructure accessible to all or public parks. They must not be used to bolster private for-profit organizations. To contend that the speedway is too important to Indiana to fail because it can’t compete without public funds is ludicrous. It isn’t only Wall Street bankers who must learn that they themselves must cover their costs of doing business. The pubic coffers are not the personal piggy banks of America’s CEOs, and it is the duty of our elected officials to protect that money and make sure it is used wisely.

There is usually a quid pro quo in such public/private transactions, and to pass a bill like SB 0069 casts a huge shadow of doubt on the questionable motives of our representatives and senators. Please call your state legislators immediately and let them know Indiana has more important projects to pursue with our taxpayer dollars than unwisely financing repairs to someone’s private racetrack and helping a company, owned by one family, become wealthier. That $100 million would go far toward providing decent education for our children.