Friday, August 8, 2008


Perhaps it’s a fitting tribute to a country that wore the ‘Biggest Polluter’ crown for so long: a 130-foot, 50,000-lb replica of the Statue of Liberty, made entirely of foam and sprayed-on plastic. The company that commissioned the statue, however, wasn’t trying to be ironic or make a point. They really thought it was a good idea to construct this thing – which is only 13 feet
shorter than the original Statue of Liberty – made up of what the Sierra Club calls ‘the ultimate waste product’.
YTB (Your Travel Biz) has commissioned the Beryl Martin Company of northwest Indiana to create the statue for YTB’s travel convention, held in August 2008 in St. Louis. See the video below:

Styrofoam, of course, is one of the worst substances ever created in terms of its effect on the environment. It’s not biodegradable, and it takes up massive amounts of space in landfills.

So, what’s going to happen to this polluting monster of a sculpture after the YTB is done with it? It’ll end up in the trash. YTB is donating it to a community to stand as ‘a memorial to fallen soldiers’, but it won’t stay completely intact for long. What do you think the community is going to do with it when it starts deteriorating?

Let’s run down the environment-killing aspects of this very stupid idea:
  • It’s made of styrofoam.
  • It's coated in plastic.
  • It will take 48 semi trucks to move it from northwest Indiana to St. Louis, Missouri in August. That’s a lot of gas and auto exhaust.
  • Despite the plastic coating, it won’t be long before this thing starts falling apart and raining styrofoam bits all over the place.
  • It cost $6 million to make.

The unveiling of YTB’s giant statue of liberty is meant to get them plenty of publicity before their convention. Their goal is to be the world’s biggest travel company by 2011. Let’s give them negative publicity instead: YTB is now on our radar as a foe of the environment. They’ve already got a bad rep for being a rip-off pyramid scheme, so it’s not like many people will be surprised.

From earthfirst.com August 9, 2008



Congressional Approval Falls to Single Digits for First Time Ever, July 8th.

Yep, the news is a little old, but it keeps getting worse. Only 9% think Congress is doing a good or excellent job. Worse, only 12% feel any meaningful legislation is being passed. "The majority of voters (62%) say Congress has not passed any legislation to improve life in America." This is a sad time for America, the greatest repository of freedom the world has ever seen. For Americans to lose faith in their leaders says something about our vacuum of leadership and the corresponding secret and unhealthy method of 'hotlining' the majority of legislation that's passed without leaving the comforts of a Senator's office, limo, or campaign trail. Failure to read a proposed bill, sometime 400-500 pages, given 15 minutes to review it by phone, and having up to 40 of those bills pass every day by phone via 'unanimous consent' or 'hotlining' is beyond the reason of any representative's responsibility to his constituents, his conscience, and his duty to be part of the answer instead of the problem. And failure to respond by phone endorses automatic passage on bills never seen; never read; but involve billions of our taxpayer money. How often we hear from those running: 'I just want to make a difference'. Yes, they have made a difference for the worse, by being part of the dumbing down of America and raping citizens of faith, money, and violating the Constitution; not the least of which is preserving domestic tranquility and failure to 'preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution'.

Lobbyists contribute to this problem by their $ influence. Desired legislation in exchange for healthy campaign contributions or favors would constitute a bribe if proven that a 'quid pro quo' exists (tit for tat), but most are more clever than that. The withholding of money may send a message. Take a look at Build-Pac., the political action committee of the National Homebuilders. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 2 million already poured into the 2008 congressional campaigns, but now they threatened to withhold any more because they didn't get all the provisions they wanted. "Lobbies like to pretend that congressional action and their donations aren't tied, " said Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "But the home builders just confirmed that they are."

Take a look below posted at open secrets http://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/lookup2.php?strID=C00000901

National Assn. of Home Builders 2008 PAC Summary Data
Total Receipts: $3,120,469
Total Spent: $2,240,402
Begin Cash on Hand: $ 826,669
End Cash on Hand: $1,706,734
Debts: $ 0
Date of last report: June 30, 2008

Contributions from this PAC to
federal candidates (list recipients)
(45% to Democrats, 55% to Republicans): $ 977,000

Contributions to this PAC from
individual donors of $200 or more
(list donors): $2,348,885

Among the recipients of moneymade
public as of June 30th '08 by the FEC:

Burton, Dan (R-IN)

Buyer, Steve (R-IN)

Donnelly, Joe (D-IN)

Pence, Mike (R-IN)

Visclosky, Pete (D-IN)

For a full listing go to: http://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/pacgot.php?cmte=C00000901&cycle=2008

It is quite obvious that the accumulated value of small potato contributions from thousands of lobbyists and pacs can readily provide a healthy campaign war chest for those seeking re-election. Just don't answer your office hotline and lobbyists' legislation will sail on through with unanimous consent. Check will be in the mail soon. Object to provisions and you're persona non grata, and your future on the Hill may be in question.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Check out the following link to Watchdog Indiana's website. The site has candidate ratings for the upcoming November general election and lets you know if a candidate is taxpayer friendly or part of the problem. We all need to become informed voters and make the right choices based on the individual candidates and not the party.



Building on the state's three straight years of balanced budgets, Governor Mitch Daniels today proposed two major steps to further strengthen Indiana's protection of taxpayers.

First, the governor called for final legislative passage of a constitutional amendment to make permanent the caps on property taxes contained in the landmark tax cut bill approved during the 2008 session of the Indiana General Assembly. Second, the governor proposed sending taxpayers a refund in the years when state revenues exceed those necessary for a balanced budget and rainy day reserves.

The governor's property tax package, HEA 1001, received overwhelming bipartisan support (119- 27). Among its provisions, it limits property taxes to 1 percent of the value of a home, 2 percent of agriculture land or rental property, and 3 percent of any other business beginning in 2010 (phased in starting next year). Daniels said achieving permanent property tax protections for homeowners and other taxpayers would be his top priority for the 2009 legislative session.

Homeowners all over the state are beginning to reap the benefits of the governor's property tax plan. So far, the average property tax reduction is about 38 percent compared to 2007 taxes.

A constitutional amendment must be approved by two separate sessions of the General Assembly before it can go to a popular vote. If legislators approve SJR1 again during the 2009 session, Indiana voters would have the opportunity to consider the caps in the November 2010 general election.

"We've taken the first of what must be three steps to make the caps permanent and constitutional. The legislature has voted once to submit this to a referendum of the people. A second vote under our law must occur, and then you the people get a chance to vote," said Daniels, during a luncheon speech before members of the Rotary Club of Indianapolis. "I'm very confident that if the people of Indiana get that chance, they are going to vote to lock in these caps and this unique-in-America protection. We have to make sure that that vote happens, and that it comes soon.

The second proposal, the Automatic Taxpayer Refund, would ensure that any tax revenues beyond those needed to maintain a balanced budget and adequate rainy day reserves be sent back to taxpayers in the form of a refund.

In years when state revenues are above an agreed level needed for fiscal sufficiency (for example, 10 percent of the next budget), the surplus amount would be returned to taxpayers on a per capita basis in the form of a credit on their next income tax filing. The state auditor would be responsible for certifying that the amount of total financial reserves, which consist of the General Fund, Rainy Day Fund, Medicaid reserve and School Rainy Day Fund are above the agreed level.

"The state would collect only what it needs to provide essential services, to protect itself against a downturn and to have an adequate reserve. Above that, the money stays with the taxpayer to be spent on family needs and to be reinvested in a growing economy," said Daniels.

The plan would require the approval of the General Assembly.

Audio of the governor's speech may be found at www.in.gov/gov/2445.htm.

From the Mitch for Governor Campaign Committee

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


He's closed the Hammond Health Department and homeless center and cut funding to the McCauley Clinic. Services that the economically disadvantaged in Hammond greatly need. Before he backed off and threw the "political hot potato" in the City Council's lap, Mayor McDermott wanted to cut the Hammond transit service.

Now on the front page of Tuesday's Times, there is an article about Mayor McDermott bringing a 130 foot Statue of Liberty to Wolf Lake. The statue will be donated, but the city will pay for its installation and upkeep. The mayor could not give an estimated price tag on what that will cost. Why not? Is he afraid there will be a taxpayer uproar over the cost? Shouldn't the people of Robertsdale have a say in whether they want this statue on Boy Scout island in Wolf Lake or not?

The idea of spending money on this statue when the good people of Hammond are losing their homes and being deprived of needed services is absolutely ludicrous. There are much better ways for the City of Hammond to spend money, taxpayer or not, than on a 130 foot statue. Shouldn't he be more concerned with cutting out bloat and waste from city government than spending money on willy nilly ideas? Not to mention the fact that we will be the laughingstock of Northwest Indiana.

And before any of our detractors can start blogging about our lack of patriotism, many of our Team Hammond members served in the military and with great pride. We don't need to look at a statue to be patriotic. We would rather the city's money be spent frugally and wisely.

If the mayor really has to have the statue, put it on the golf course next to his new clubhouse/banquet hall and leave Boy Scout island alone!


Mayor Rudy Clay of Gary was on the local network news yesterday asking the city union employees to take a 20% paycut to help out with Gary's massive budget cuts.

Will Clay himself be willing to take a 20% paycut? Will Clay be willing to give up his Hummer? Will Clay's son give up his job as photographer for the sanitary district? Will Clay be willing to cut out the "real" fat and eliminate unnecessary patronage positions?

If Mayor Clay wants to make Gary city government lean and efficient, he needs to actually make some sacrifices. Then and only then should city union employees consider a paycut.

What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

Monday, August 4, 2008


By a vote of 6-3, the School Property Tax Control Board voted to reject the School City of Hammond's plan for a new Hammond high school.

The control board's nonbinding decision now goes to Cheryl Musgrave, the DLGF Commissioner for a final decision. Should Musgrave veto the project, voters would have the opportunity to approve the new high school by way of a referendum.

Four members of Team Hammond Taxpayers' Group made the trip down to Indianapolis to attend the control board hearing. Team Hammond would not attack the need nor the location or consolidation; their focus would be that the past performance of the SCH did not justify building a new school.

During Jim Premeske's presentation, he emphasized the degree to which the SCH adjusted their statements to support any position they might take: i.e. "...we need new schools because enrollment is increasing" or four years earlier "...with a declining enrollment we must...add schools." Example: justifying a new Maywood because it was too close to Wallace (four blocks), then building the new Maywood two blocks from Wallace. Jim also addressed Hammond's penchant for abandoning buildings prematurely (Orchard Drive), often bearing a demolition expense after half (or less) of its useful life. Jim then addressed the two $21 million schools built consecutively about one mile apart, while schools built to the same design were built for $11 million and $14 million elsewhere. Lake County's exclusion from the statewide property tax relief implementation schedule (and why), Hammond's declining population, and the negative impact of TIFs on property tax revenues were also covered by Premeske's presentation.

Jim Sheehan's presentation followed next. He explained the deception inherent in the SCH's financial package; that as much as $400 million was unaccounted for in their required legal advertisement and how the school board was misleading citizens into thinking their property taxes would not increase. Sheehan explained how the SCH had established a sham "multi-building school corporation" holding entity to avoid the limitations of Article 13 of the Indiana Constitution. The sham corporation bonds, builds, then leases buildings to SCH to avoid financial regulation by the state. SCH's debt limit is not more thn $52 million while their existing (pre-Hammond High/Gavit) debt is $362.7 million. During cross examination, it was discovered that to win approval the new debt had been backloaded: practically no principal would be paid in the early years of the debt, with a huge increase occurring during the last ten years of the bond.

The last Team Hammond presenter was George Janiec. He cited Hammond's unsatisfactory academic performance and the fact that existing statistics showed negligible improvement among students in Hammond's newer schools. He challenged the SCH's assertion that no additional construction was in Hammond's future by addressing the age and enrollment limitations of the Depression-era George Rogers Clark MS/HS, which will be nearly 100 years old when the largest volume of the proposed debt would be hitting the taxpayers. Much of SCH's justification hinged on a specific wheelchair bound student. George questioned why this would now be of immediate importance when the federal ADA mandated such compliance 16 years ago. George closed with an impassioned plea that the decision for additional debt belonged with the citizens; not with the five school board members and not with the out-of-town administrators, educators and consultants who would not be paying the bills.

Members of the property tax control board said although they sympathized with the need for a new high school, they objected not only to the $106.6 million cost of the construction project but also the estimated $60 to $70 million in interest costs over the life of the 20 year bonds.

Another sticking point with some of the board members was the fact that the bond payments would be backloaded. SCH would pay nothing in 2008 and 2009 according to the proposed financing scheduling giving taxpayers the false security their property taxes would not increase.
However, in 2010 annual payments would jump to $5.3 million and in 2020, payments would balloon to $13.9 million.

While we may have won the battle, the war is far from over. The final decision now rests with Cheryl Musgrave, DLGF Commissioner. Write, call, email or fax Ms. Musgrave at the DLGF in Indianapolis and let her know you oppose this building project. She has six months in which to make her decision.


It's been a little over 2 weeks since the County Board of Elections exonerated one of Team Hammond's leaders, Jim Premeske, of vote fraud.

Premeske had been the target of a smear campaign by Dave Woerpel and Steve Fowler, both ardent supporters of Mayor McDermott. In addition to the vote fraud complaint, it was insinuated that Premeske had two homestead exemptions and was scamming taxpayers.

However by a vote of 4-1, the Election Board found Premeske innocent of the charge. The lone dissenting vote was cast by Alfonso Salinas Sr., father of Hammond City Councilman Alfonso Salinas Jr. His vote did not come as a surprise to Team Hammond members who believed the vote was politically motivated.

The original complaint stated Premeske should not be voting in Hammond because he lives in Schererville and does not reside at the Blaine Avenue address. Allegations were made that not a drop of water had been going into the house for several years and neighbors had said they seldom saw Jim at the home.

At the first hearing in June, Jim provided board members with eleven annotated exhibits which included documentation of Hammond water bills paid, affidavits of neighbors attesting to the fact that Jim did reside at the Blaine Avenue address, documentation of agendas the Lake County Council mailed to Jim at the Blaine Avenue address since late 2004, a memorandum from the Auditor's office dispelling dual homestead exemptions, personal data provided to Dave Woerpel by the Elections Office in violation of IC 3-7-26.4-8, documentation that Schererville is the home office for James Walter Premeske Enterprises, Inc., and Indiana codes and statutes pertinent to the allegations.

Those codes include:

Indiana Code 3-5-2-42.5 (Residence) Residence means the place: 1) where a person has the person's true, fixed and permanent home and principal establishment; and 2) to which the person has, whenever absent, the intention of returning.

Indiana Code 3-5-5-14 (Establishment of voting residence separate from spouse) A married person who does not live in a household with the person's spouse may establish a separate residence from the residence of the person's spouse.

At the July 15 hearing, Election Board Attorney Fred Work stated that the burden of proof was upon the accusers and having failed to provide proof of any election law violations, Work recommended that the Election Board dismiss the charges against Premeske.

Later during the proceedings, Premeske commented on being the victim of unfounded accusations, the damage to one's reputation, and the attack on his liberties. Quoting Tip O'Neill, Jim stated, "All politics is local and the place for me to begin correcting government abuse is in Hammond, Indiana, right in Precinct 3-13."

Sunday, August 3, 2008


Lake County Surveyor George Van Til announced at a news conference on Thursday he will cut his 2009 budget by 16 percent.

Van Til intends to pare $429,382 from his current $2.1 million budget and eliminate two full-time and three part-time positions from his staff. He also called for other Lake County officials and unelected department heads to cut their budgets by at least 12 percent. Van Til also wants the Lake County Council to make further cuts as recommended by the Good Government Initiative.

After it was announced the Surveyor's office would be hiring five new employees despite a hiring freeze and the county facing a revenue shortfall of $15 million, Van Til claimed he did not know about the freeze. However, Lake County Council President Christine Cid wasn't buying it and chastised Van Til saying the budget cuts and hiring freeze were not something new.

Doesn't Van Til read the Times or Post-Tribune?

If Mr. Van Til was really interested in saving taxpayers money, he would suggest consolidating the Surveyor's office with the County Highway and Public Works Departments. He could also contract out work on an "as needed" basis which would result in substantial savings. Finally, he could eliminate such perks as take-home cars which have been used for personal use and filling up private vehicles at the county gas pumps.

Mr. Van Til's change of heart about cutting the Surveyor's budget was just to take the heat off him and make it look like he's one of the good guys in county government.

Yeah, and bears don't poop in the woods!


Jewell Harris Sr., former state lawmaker, was sentenced on Thursday to a maximum of six years in prison for his fraud convictions. Judge James Moody ordered Harris to self-report to the Oxford Prison Camp in Wisconsin on September 1. Harris is also to immediately pay the City of Gary $1.53 million in restitution.

At his trial in January, Harris was convicted of double-billing the City of Gary for work his hauling company did in 2001 during construction of the Steel Yard baseball stadium. Contractor Rieth-Riley also paid Harris' company for the same work during that time period.

On the stand Thursday, Harris argued the City of Gary was not the victim of double-billing. Rieth-Riley paid his company $91,000 for which the city also paid his company. Harris stated the IRS, Rieth-Riley officials and truck drivers in the case lied on the stand about actual work performed.

"I'm surprised that he would take the stand and try to controvert all the evidence at trial," Assistant U.S. Attorney Bernard Van Wormer said. "That tells me he's sorry he got caught, not sorry that he did it."

Defense attorney Kevin Milner said they will appeal both the conviction and the length of Harris' sentence.


For release Aug. 6 and thereafter
by Craig Ladwig

The Associated Press headline screamed the news: “Everything Seemingly Is Spinning Out of Control.” The article suggested that someone, anyone, get control.

But our legislators are pumping out laws so fast they are hard pressed to even read them. The solution, rather than more control, is a renewal of the glue that holds a constitutional republic together — accountability.

The annual Gallup Annual Survey of Public Confidence in American Institutions found that the least-respected institution is Congress. No surprise there, but it’s worth noting that the rating is the lowest of any institution in the 35 years Gallup has been conducting its survey.

Congress is rated so low — only 12 percent of respondents with a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence — that it reflects what can only be utter public disdain. And the July Rasmussen Report found only nine percent responding that Congress was doing a “good” or “excellent” job.

It is hardly comforting that the highest ranked institutions were the military at 71 percent and the police at 58 percent. Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal has a theory about this. He thinks it is because the military and the police are “self-reforming” institutions, both requiring self-discipline as a job requirement.

Democracy, clearly, has lost its ability to calm us.

All of this suggests that the American citizenry is poised for a historic turn — one toward those few remaining institutions it sees as accountable. And the turn will be made even if the institutions can offer accountability only through the discipline of a command structure. (Can it be an accident that self-government so often ends in “temporary” military or police rule?)

Locally, the Gallup findings seem applicable. Hoosiers are uncertain about their future. They have reason to doubt the self-discipline and the accountability of their legislatures, their chief executives, their city councils, their county councils and their judges.

Here are the talking points at our coffee table:

Indiana schools, libraries, museums, convention centers, music halls, sports stadiums, economic development districts and dozens of other appointed quasi-governmental units hold tight the hands of bonding attorneys and architectural firms who walk them through the arcane world of government finance in exchange for percentage fees.

In at least one Indiana city they want to put private businesses under the review of Neighborhood Code Enforcement. That makes two breathtaking assumptions: That the city’s inspectors would know more about maintaining a business than its owners; and that a business owned by, say, a politician's relative would not enjoy a certain advantage in the new scheme of things.

In every Indiana city there are appointed members of planning and zoning boards moving other people's property around as if playing Monopoly, accountable only to rules understood only by the most specialized law firms.

And finally, several national newspaper chains, one owning influential dailies in Indiana, announce they will outsource certain types of copy editing to India.

With things spinning so, maybe that’s where they think the Indianians live.

T. Craig Ladwig is editor of the Indiana Policy Review, a quarterly journal commissioning articles on state and municipal issues.

From Indiana Policy Review
Sunday, August 3, 2008

Blunt Proof of the Feasibility to Permanently Abolish Property Tax

Media Contacts:
Melyssa Donaghy 317-938-8913
Max Katz 765-409-6669

Hoosiers For Fair Taxation, Senator Delph, Representative Noe, Representative Elrod and many other legislators along with Stop Indiana, attorney John Price, Eric Miller's Advance America, and the Statewide Taxpayer Alliance know that property tax abolishment, without substantial increases in sales tax and income tax, is realistic and possible. The economist Dr. Bill Styring's 2/2/2 Plan demonstrates that the state of Indiana can completely replace property tax without changing the state's current spending habits.

Dr. Styring's plan does not account for positive changes in Indiana's economy that will undoubtedly follow the elimination of property tax such as heavy real estate investment and increased consumer spending due to increased statewide disposable income. The real estate investment in Indiana alone would cause such an economic boom that it could likely end our abandoned property and foreclosure crisis. Property tax elimination would also likely cause a surge in Indiana's population as more people locate to Indiana to take advantage of real estate purchase opportunities without the burden of property tax. With the population surge would come more sales and income taxes.

The General Assembly does not have to adopt a specific plan until the year 2011. In the meantime, we recommend that the General Assembly approves the 27steps outlined in the report prepared by the Sheperd Kernan commission. While the Governor's commission cannot forecast the savings to the state once the plan is implemented, there is no doubt that the savings would be substantial--perhaps equivalent to the the entire property tax burden currently placed on Indiana's homeowners because our legislators have not had the political will to liberate Indiana's governing structure and her taxpayers from the 19th century.

Our citizen networks will work to replace all legislators who do not support property tax repeal in the November 2008 election.

The 2/2/2 Plan, to replace property taxes in Indiana based upon the latest revenue forecast (07/08 fiscal, estimate):

1) Current IN sales tax (state level rate of 6%): $5.601 billion2% increase would yield an additional $1.867 billion

2) Current corporate profits tax: ~$2 billion

2% increase would yield an additional $.286 billion ($286M)

3) A 2% statewide average of the COIT would yield $2.705 billion to cover local civil units of gov.

By adding these three together ($1.867 billion + $.286 billion + $2.705 billion), a total of $4.858 billion is realized; enough revenue to replace property taxes.

Indiana has a 70-plus year history of attempts to lower property taxes by raising other, non-property taxes. In every case these have failed miserably. The new taxes, or higher rates on old taxes, remain in place. And, in short order, property taxes rise back to their old levels, poised to roar even higher.

--1933. General Assembly imposes two new taxes: an individual gross income tax and a corporate gross income tax. The morgue of the Indianapolis Star indicates that the political leadership at the time said this was for property tax relief (1933 was the pits of the Great Depression, and people were losing their homes. Home prices declined by over 40% in the 1929-1933 period). Property tax relief was nonexistent. The state used the money to bail out the state's own finances.

--1963. General Assembly imposes a new sales tax at a rate of 2% and changes the 1933 individual gross income tax (from 1933) to an adjusted gross income tax (the one we have now) at a rate of 2%. Again, the ostensible reason was for property tax relief and again little PTR was forthcoming.

--1967. Those 1963 tax changes were raising more money than projected. The GA decides to give back 8% of sales and income tax revenue to local government for property tax relief. Local units spent the money. No PTR.

--1973. Gov. Otis Bowen launches the most determined PTR offensive yet. The sales tax goes to 4% and a new corporate supplemental net income (profits) tax is imposed. Strict property tax levy controls are imposed. It works... for a time. By 1980, property taxes adjusted for inflation are some 30% lower than in 1973. When Bowen leaves office the levy controls are relaxed. By the end of the decade, property taxes (adjusted for inflation) are back to 1973 levels. The doubling of the sales tax rate from 2% to 4% remains in place, along with the new corporate SNIT.

--2002. More fiddling with the sales tax in the hope of property tax relief. The results of this are obvious, or we wouldn't be debating the current property tax mess. All of this suggests that unless the property tax is totally ripped up by constitutional amendment, the assessment and collection mechanism dismantled, it will grow back. The PTR-inspired hikes in other taxes remain. That is our history. It is a terrible deal for taxpayers.

2. A vote in the 2008 legislative session for a constitutional amendment to repeal property taxes does not amend the constitution. It merely starts the amendment process. Amendments must be passed by two consecutively elected General Assemblies, then submitted to a referendum. Thus any amendment passed by the '08 Assembly must be passed by either the 2009 or 2010 legislatures, then submitted to the voters at the 2010 general election. The General Assembly does not need to decide on a "replacement revenue" package until the 2011 session.

3. What might such a "replacement revenue" package look like? The particular answer will come from the 2011 General Assembly and cannot be determined now (if for no other reason than forecasting state level taxes and property taxes out that far would be a most unreliable exercise. No one need be locked into any particular plan just yet. However, as an illustration that a replacement plan is feasible and less scary than many fear (we don't need to be talking about a 12% or 13% sales tax ... in fact, we should not be), consider just this one possibility.

Local sales taxes are generally very bad policy, for a whole host of reasons too numerous to mention in this short sketch. Sales and corporate taxes are best levied at the state level. It happens that roughly a 2% increase in the sales tax and a 2% increase in the corporate profits tax roughly take care of school propertytaxes. The loss of local control by the state assuming school property taxes is minimal. About the onlylocal control left is on building projects.

For local civil units, a statewide average increase in the individual adjusted gross income tax of about 2% suffices to replace local civil government property taxes, higher than 2% in some units, less than 2% in others.

Thus, a "2-2-2" plan~2% sales and 2% corporate profits at the state level for schools and a 2% average on personal income taxes for civil units—is about what would be needed. This is merely a ballpark projection to 2011.

There may be better plans, it's really a policy question for the General Assembly: do you want to make the trade of something like this in exchange for no-property-taxes-forever-on-anything? Everyone understands "zero."

4. Are there "practical problems? Of course. The two identified are how to make the civil government transition from a property tax base to an income tax base, and how to handle debt backed by property taxes. Without elaborating, the former can be handled using locator software (Map quest-type programs). The debt problem might be handled by treating the current state paid PTRC's as in lieu of property taxes (which they are) and paying PT-backed debt service from each unit's own PTRC.

Conclusion: Total elimination of the property tax via constitutional amendment is the only way to give property tax relief that will stick. The other tax action necessary to achieve this goal—in 2011-are large but not so scary as "a 13% sales tax." They are feasible. The question is for the General Assembly. Are we going to once again go down that 70-odd year path of failed PTR policies or are we going to rip the property tax up by the roots?

Posted by Hoosiers For Fair Taxation on Friday, January 4, 2008.