Taxpayers weigh benefits of IMS tax plan
If money makes the world go 'round, then the fast cars and motorcycles at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are a key to Indiana's prosperity.
IMS generates a small fortune for the state but now, for the first time, the track is asking for a cash infusion. Most state lawmakers seem to be along for the ride except Governor Mike Pence, who says he's looking out for the rest of us.
The Speedway is always in a state of renovation. In fact, IMS invests $5-10 million for upkeep annually, but now is asking for $100 million from taxpayers.
"We have to put taxpayers first and make sure whatever is used here is in the interest of taxpayers and the long-term economy," Pence said.
The governor says he has reservations about the 20-year plan, saying he would like to see more private money involved.
Eyewitness News put the question to taxpayers at Charlie Brown Pancake House in Speedway.
"I am all for it, if it makes the Speedway better," said Charles Pettruzzi. "If it brings more people here, improves the infrastructure at the Speedway, absolutely."
"Jim Irsay got it, so I can't see why the Speedway can't get it," Jerry Powell said.
"The Indy 500 puts Indianapolis on the map around the globe and it's hard to put a value on that," said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., who oversees IMS.
A quick walk down Main Street in Speedway underscores that point. The track says it generates about $510 million for the state annually and you see a lot of that money being reinvested into the town.
More than 6,000 jobs in the state related to the track average $62,000 a year in salary.
IMS says it needs the influx of money to compete with the new megatracks, like Circuit of America in Texas, which costs taxpayers $250 million.
"It's not right, but it's the way business goes, the entertainment business," said diner Bob Koch.
It's the cost of doing business.
The measure has already passed out of the House and is currently being debated in the Senate.