Regional Cities funding OK’d by lawmakers, heads to Gov.’s desk

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WANE) The bill outlining the funding for the third Regional Cities project was passed by both the Senate and House Thursday.

The additional $42 million was wrapped with a major roads funding bill and was the last bill passed by the House this session.

For many in Northeast Indiana it’s the outcome they’ve been hoping for.

“Another example of a lot of hard work and determination by this region and the entire state went into getting this, the third bill passed. We’re really appreciative of our legislators from this region,” Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership President and CEO John Sampson said. “They listened carefully.”

With the full $126 million needed to fund the Regional Cities Initiative approved by lawmakers, Sampson looks back at the long road to this point. Back in December three winners were chosen for the Regional Cities Initiative, rather than just two. In order to grant all three regions $42 million as promised the state needed $126 million rather than just the $84 million that had already been approved by lawmakers last session. Heading into this session the additional $42 million was the center of controversy, with lawmakers reluctant to support a bill outlining the money. Then the Regional Cities bill was wrapped with a major road funding bill.

“Our local communities need road funding as well as they do this Regional Cities money, so we were anxious that they didn’t pit one against the other. We felt that they needed to work together and get both of those done,” Sampson said.

That’s what lawmakers did Thursday giving Regional Cities projects get the green light to move to the next step. In Northeast Indiana there are more than 70 projects planned. Thirty-eight are projected to happen in the next two years, costing some $400 million dollars. The Regional Cities money will be matched by both private and local funds.

“Our Regional Development Authority has to finalize an agreement with IEDC and when we get that approved they will be taking the applications from the various projects. The most important step for them to do is to ensure that they have a financing plan,” Sampson said.

As for the roads portion of the bill, $800 million will be devoted to fix Indiana’s crumbling roads and bridges without raising taxes. That money will come from the state’s $2 billion budget reserve. Gas tax money will also be used on infrastructure. The agreement will provide about $232 million for state highways and $585 million to local governments for their own improvements. House Speaker Brian Bosma said the majority of the $585 million came from local tax collections held in state reserves.

The bill will now head to Governor Mike Pence’s desk for final approval.

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