Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton proposed an income tax to help fight climate change Jan. 1. Weeks later, officials are still ironing out the specifics.
The proposal would raise the Monroe County income tax from 1.345% to 1.845%, city spokesperson Yaël Ksander said. It would raise $16 million total to fund environmental initiatives, such as possibly extending the bike trails and bus routes. If passed before Sept. 1, the tax would go into effect Oct. 1. If passed after Sept. 1, it would go into effect Jan. 1, 2021.
“This tax has been proposed because of the urgency of climate change,” Ksander said.
Ksander said there will be multiple public meetings to get community input and to figure out where to put the money the tax would raise before it is approved. The public meetings have not been scheduled yet. The tax would have to be approved by multiple governing bodies, such as Bloomington City Council and the local income tax council.
The city is searching for people to sit on the Green Ribbon Panel, which will be made up of businesses and community leaders weighing in on the issue of climate change, Ksander said. Panel members will also weigh in on the tax and where funds go. The panel will be created in the coming months.
Randy Paul, Monroe County Green Party chair emeritus, said the party supports action to combat climate change. However, he’s concerned this tax will hit lower-income families hard by raising taxes on people who may already be drowning in bills. He said the city should create some kind of subsidy or taxing system so everyone is taxed what they can afford.
Paul said he thinks there is a spending problem within the city. He said the city should try to cut down spending before raising taxes, although he knows taxes are sometimes necessary.
"You're talking huge amounts of money to fight climate change," Paul said.
People might get used to paying the increased income tax to help fight climate change, Paul said. He compared it to limiting car usage and walking to places more often. But he knows change is hard for many people.
“Nobody wants to sacrifice anything,” Paul said.
Alex Crowley, the director of the City of Bloomington Department of Economic & Sustainable Development, said figuring out community partners involved in the tax would be an ongoing effort. Figuring out where money goes and who it helps will allow the city to determine what boards and departments to involve in the initiative.
“There's a lot of work that's just only now beginning,” Crowley said.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated the affected area and tax rates. The tax will affect Monroe County and the current tax rate is 1.345% and the proposed rate is 1.845%. The IDS regrets this error.