RDA wants state funding to continue

2012-10-18T13:24:00Z 2012-10-18T17:43:07Z RDA wants state funding to continueBy Keith Benman keith.benman@nwi.com, (219) 933-3326 nwitimes.com

The Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority plans to push now for state funding to replace the $10 million per year it receives in Indiana Toll Road lease proceeds, which will dry up in 2015.

RDA Executive Director Bill Hanna told the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission on Thursday the organization would like to see legislation to that effect introduced and passed in the Indiana General Assembly in 2013.

"We are making the case we can be, will be, and in fact are one of the most important generators of state revenue," he told commissioners at their meeting at NIRPC headquarters in Portage.

Hanna showed commissioners a video that highlighted the $210 million the RDA has invested in projects across the region. That money has leveraged $540 million in spending on the same projects by local governments, the federal government and private parties.

In all, the RDA projects have generated $1.1 billion in economic activity and created 2,000 construction and permanent jobs, according to an RDA study. RDA projects include the Gary/Chicago International Airport runway extension project, Hammond Lakes park projects, Marquette Park restoration and Indiana Dunes Gateway in Porter.

The RDA was created under state legislation that passed the General Assembly and was signed by Gov. Mitch Daniels in 2005.

The cities of Gary, Hammond and East Chicago each contribute $3.5 million in casino development funds annually to the RDA. Lake County also contributes $3.5 million in casino funds. Porter County raised its $3.5 million contribution from a local income tax.

Under a deal struck when the Indiana Toll Road was leased for $3.8 billion in 2006, the RDA receives $10 million per year in lease proceeds. That annual payment will end in 2015.

RDA officials have said they want to push now for continued state funding in order to be able to plan long-term financing for projects.

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., Gary Mayor Karen Wilson-Freeman, and East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland all heartily endorsed the RDA's work after Hanna spoke.

"It's near the end of Gov. Daniels term in office, and the creation of the RDA was one of the best things he did for the state and even more for the region," McDermott said.

The NIRPC board also approved a 2013 general fund budget of $3.35 million. That is 7.5 percent less than the 2012 budget of $3.62 million.

The commission also approved the purchase of two buses for the North Township dial-a-ride service with $135,000 in federal funds. The commission also voted in favor of continuing for another year with David Hollenbeck as NIRPC attorney at a rate of $1,350 for ordinary business and $145 per hour for extraordinary duties.

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