March 27, 2017-It is difficult to keep up with all the havoc the One Region Crew has planned for Northwest Indiana. Among the bills that is sailing through the Indiana legislature is one that would take money directly from cities and towns that reduce their commitment to the Visclosky/Slager regional transformation plan. Make no mistake about it, local leaders were misled into signing an interlocal agreement to support the West Lake Extension of the South Shore railroad. Many signed on to the plan without knowing the true impact of the thirty year commitment. Now that many of those leaders have been replaced, new leadership is raising serious questions as to the promises made and the expenses of the 30 year agreement to provide local money to the regional transformation project. Merrillville and Gary have both voted to reduce their pledges to the plan after Visclosky and Slager made it clear that the true intent of the plan is to put power in the hands of the un-elected Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority at the expense of local elected leaders. Now the One Region Crew, including NIPSCO’s very own Senator Eddie Melton, are pushing a provision that would allow the State Treasurer to withhold funds from local budgets in the event the cities and towns do not pay their commitments. According to the legislative summary Senate Bill 128:
“Provides that a city, county, or political subdivision that fails to make a payment or transfer to a development authority as required is subject to a deduction by the state treasurer and a deduction of available funds from the development authority. Provides that the use of the major bridge fund for projects involving double tracking must be approved by the northwest Indiana regional development authority. “
The bill is co-authored by NIPSCO’s Eddie Melton, Senator Messmer (R-48), Senator Lonnie Randolph (D-2) and others. In the House, the bill is being pushed by none other than Dunes Alcohol Representative Ed Soliday (R-4). The bill has passed the Senate and the House Committee on Roads and Transportation. Munster Representative Mara Candelaria-Reardon voted “Yes” in that committee. The bill now heads to House Ways and Means Committee where it has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.