Mayor’s Office clings to hopes in final days As the legislative session moves into its final days, the controversial Indianapolis Works bill remains a political hot potato. Even as they continue to search for ways to keep the consolidation proposal alive, officials in the Mayor’s Office are preparing for the unpleasant task of implementing cutbacks and layoffs to offset what they say will be the fiscal crisis that will result if Indy Works does not pass. A group of firefighters and street workers hold up a sign supporting Indianapolis Works outside the Statehouse. A different group has held this banner during the noon hour every weekday for two weeks. Senate Bill 638 represented the most recent opportunity to keep the proposal alive, as the majority of Indy Works was amended into that bill. However, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted along party lines against bringing it to the floor.
Now House Bill 1097 and Senate Bill 307 have both been amended to include portions of Indianapolis Works, which accomplish the all-important task of keeping the proposal on the table through the last days of the session.
“We’re alive right now,” Deputy Mayor Steve Campbell said. “What that does is bring us towards conference committee. It’s delicate. We’re working with a lot of folks. But I think we’re OK right now.”
Ultimately, it comes down to cooperation from Republicans.
“The question is, will we have a negotiating partner or won’t we?” Mayor Bart Peterson said. “[The last few days of the session] is where things really happen with controversial issues. If no one comes forward from the Republican leadership, then obviously it won’t happen.”
The mayor’s point man on the issue, Scott Chinn, said that time is of the essence in these final days.
“We really made clear that if the General Assembly doesn’t act to adopt Indy Works before April 29, there are going to be consequences we can otherwise avoid,” Chinn said. “Unfortunately, we are going to have to engage in serious service cuts if this doesn’t get passed. We wanted the public to know … The majority is unwilling so far to pass Indy Works.”
And if it doesn’t work, Chinn echoed the grim portrait the mayor has frequently painted as the alternative.
“[If it doesn’t pass], the mayor will challenge the controller and me and all the department heads to begin the hard and unfortunate work of how we’re going to engage in service cuts and layoffs over the next several years,” Chinn said. “On the county side, the city will not be in position in 2006 to bail out the county as it has before.”
Nonetheless, the Mayor’s Office said that the bulk of their efforts remain in finding a way to pass Indy Works before this week is over.
“[Preparations] will begin the moment that we know Indy Works has not passed, but we’re working every minute to make sure that it does pass,” Chinn said. “I think it’s a good sign that there are two bills that are potential vehicles. We’re reaching out to folks in both chambers to try to convince them that they should do this. I refuse to be pessimistic. “