RDA to make state funding pitch

2012-07-18T17:52:00Z 2012-07-19T09:58:07Z RDA to make state funding pitchBy Keith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com

The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority is preparing its case for continued state funding of $10 million per year even after Indiana Toll Road lease money dries up.

"We believe we have a strong business case that will show the state for every dollar they have put in (to the RDA) more money is coming back to the state," RDA Executive Director Bill Hanna told a meeting of The Times Editorial Advisory Board on Wednesday.

The state contributes $10 million per year to the RDA's annual $27.5 million budget, with the rest coming from local casino development funds. The state's yearly contribution was part of the political deal that allowed Gov. Mitch Daniels to push the $3.8 billion lease of Indiana's only toll road through the General Assembly in 2006.

But 2015 is the last year the annual payment will be handed over to the RDA under the 2006 statute authorizing the Toll Road lease. The RDA will work with the region's local legislative delegation to have legislation introduced to continue the state's funding share after 2015, perhaps as early as next session, Hanna said.

The RDA is about to complete a return on investment, or ROI study, which it wants to have ready for this summer's General Assembly study session, Hanna said. It will be briefing local legislators on the findings as soon as they are available.

At Wednesday's editorial advisory board meeting at Innsbrook County Club in Merrillville, Hanna explained the RDA has committed $196.9 million of its money to a broad range of projects. Those include lakefront parks in five cities, the Gary/Chicago International Airport expansion, South Shore rail cars and economic development deals such as Modern Forge's move to Merrillville.

That spending has leveraged a total of $625.5 million in federal grants, state grants, local funds and private investment for those same projects. That works out to more than $3 in outside money for every RDA dollar invested.

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