The beat goes on - and gets worse
Just about a month ago, we wrote on the continuing clamor for "mass transportation" - meaning quick service for our Hamilton County friends to get downtown. Now we have the introduction of an outrageous piece of legislation in the General Assembly.
We refer to Senate Bill 479 which would allow the establishment of "Regional Transportation Districts" (RTDs). While advocates of slimming down government in the state are hard at work, this would be a new layer at county or multi-county level.
The RTD would be operated by an appointed board which would have the power to raise funds from: property taxes from an "allocation area" within the district; a special property tax; a food and beverage tax; a "green tax" of $10 per automobile registration; and a county economic development income tax. Plus, naturally, any free federal funds lying around. This is NOT an "either / or" list of options.
For the unwary, we would point out that taxes from an "allocation area" would constitute a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) scheme for residential property. A decision would be made, presumably by this non-elected board, that residents would benefit from the presence of rapid transit, thereby increasing the value of their homes. We find no limitation of the size of the "allocation area" and one might assume that if you live closer to the train station than to Monument Circle, you are a beneficiary and your residence would then be reassessed.
Need we remind our readers what happens to tax "caps" set as a percentage of assessments?
Another little sweetener is the provision that any amount collected from their County Economic Development Income Tax "...may not be considered by the department of local government finance in determining the county's maximum permissible property tax levy under IC 6-1.1-18.5."
Since retirement we've gotten somewhat out of touch, and, quite frankly, we're not aware of what effect revenues from that income tax have on property tax limitations. But we do feel fairly certain that excluding those revenues from any computation will not bode well for the taxpayer - of either tax.
And just as an aside, do we really want to write into law a completely indeterminate term such as a "green tax?" If we must use a color, how about "blue" as representing the feelings of taxpayers?
From Indy Tax Dollars
Friday, January 30, 2009
The beat goes on - and gets worse
Posted by Team Hammond at Friday, January 30, 2009
Thursday, January 29, 2009
We all get them in the mail. Those surveys from our state legislators. How many of you actually take the time to fill them out and mail them back? How many of you think it's not worth the bother?
If you don't tell your legislators what issues are important to you and your family, it tells them they aren't important enough to vote for in the legislative session.
How many of you have told your state representatives you support Senate Joint Resolution 1, the property tax cap legislation? Do you want the tax caps made permanent or do you want to keep paying exhorbitant property tax bills? Or should the special interest groups and the lobbyists keep getting what they want (more spending of your hard-earned tax dollars)?
If you don't tell your legislators, how will they know what their constituents want?
If SJR1 passes this year, Hoosier voters will get the opportunity to vote in a referendum next year in 2010 to make the tax caps permanent in the Indiana Constitution. We should be able to vote on this important issue because it is our money and our government!
If you don't want to fill out the survey by mail, you can fill out the legislative surveys online.
Listed below are the links to your respective state representative and state senators.
Linda Lawson, State Representative, District 1
Earl Harris, State Representative, District 2
Charlie Brown, State Representative, District 3
Ed Soliday, State Representative, District 4
Dan Stevenson, State Representative, District 11
Mara Candelaria Reardon, State Representative, District 12
Chet Dobis, State Representative, District 13
Vernon Smith, State Representative, District 14
Don Lehe, State Representative, District 15 http://www.in.gov/legislative/house_republicans/homepages/r15/
Shelli VanDenburgh, State Representative, District 19
Frank Mrvan, State Senator, District 1
Lonnie Randolph, State Senator, District 2
Earline Rogers, State Senator, District 3
Karen Tallian, State Senator, District 4
Ed Charbonneau, State Senator, District 5
Sue Landske, State Senator, District 6
Just click on the link and it will direct you to their website. Their 2009 legislative survey will be on their homepage. They are very easy to fill out and submit.
Let's support SJR1 so we can make property tax relief permanent!
We’ve heard quite a few excuses from Democrats about why they won’t support Kernan-Shepard reforms. From not being able to do two things at once to no real cost savings. The latter excuse was debunked Monday with the release of a Ball State study outlining the $622 million savings.
Now, Democrats have lost another club from their golf bag of excuses: the idea that they don’t want to take elected offices away from the people.
Democrats voted unanimously yesterday in committee for a Constitutional amendment to combine the offices of the state Auditor and Treasurer.
If we can take away a statewide elected official away from the voters, we better not hear anything about ruining democracy by getting rid of a county recorder, coroner or surveyor.
From Frugal Hoosiers
For the third year in a row, State Sen. Mike Delph (R-District 29) is promoting important legislation that would crack down on illegal immigration in Indiana. His bill (SB 580) is expected to come up for a vote in the Senate Pension and Labor Committee on February 4.
The proposed legislation would prohibit employers from knowingly employing illegal aliens and would require state and local governments, and their contractors, to use the federal E-Verify system to check the workplace eligibility of new hires. For private employers, the bill sets up an administrative complaint process (individuals can file complaints with the state attorney general) that could lead to a business-license suspension or revocation for those found to have knowingly hired illegal aliens. Companies that use E-Verify, however, are provided safe harbor against such administrative actions. The bill also bans sanctuary policies, requires state correctional facilities to check the immigration status of inmates, and mandates the use of the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) system to verify eligibility for public benefits.
In a press release, Sen. Delph said, “(a)fter discussing the bill with Senate leadership and colleagues, I am confident this will pass out of the Senate and if enacted make Indiana a leader in illegal immigration reform. We have the opportunity to come together this session saying we no longer tolerate the failure of the federal government to protect our borders and ensure our national security.”
State Sen. Dennis Kruse (R - District 14), the Chairman of the Pension and Labor Committee, will sheppard Sen. Delph’s bill (SB 580) through committee.
Listed below is the estimated impact illegal immigration has on state spending:
Total cost: Estimated at $259 million per year in 2006 and projected to climb to $434 million by 2010 and $753 million by 2020.
Education: Estimates based on 2004 data suggest students who emigrated illegally cost Indiana $85.9 million, while students born in the United States to illegal immigrants cost the state $120.3 million.
Health care: Estimates from four hospitals in the Indianapolis area placed unreimbursed health-care costs associated with treating illegal immigrants at $2.7 million per year.
Sources: Federation for American Immigration Reform, Indiana Hospital Association
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Despite the forecast of snow, there was a good turnout at the Team Hammond Taxpayers' Group meeting on Tuesday night at the Woodmar United Methodist Church.
Guest speaker for the evening was Christine Cid, 2008 President of the Lake County Council.
Ms. Cid gave a powerpoint presentation on the 2009 county budget. She explained how the budget was cut by $15 million and how and where the cuts were made. A total of 119 positions were eliminated in the budget reductions. Ms. Cid also pointed out which departments, namely the sheriff, did not make any cuts and actually asked for an increase in spending. Criminal justice (courts and law enforcement) makes up 75% of the county's budget and yet, the sheriff made no cuts to his budget. She questioned the need for the sheriff's new helicopter and adding staff when other departments were voluntarily cutting staff and making budget reductions.
Future county cost-cutting measures include consolidation of purchasing and privatization of the jail. Ms. Cid said she will continue to push for budget reductions to make county government more efficient and cost effective.
The food and beverage tax was also touched on. Ms. Cid questioned whether the bus systems had looked to other sources of funding before asking the council to enact this tax. She said she would need more information on the food and beverage tax and the bus systems before she could make a final decision.
Another tax Ms. Cid was questioned on was the county option income tax. She said she had originally voted for it because 100% of the tax was to be directed to property tax relief. Cid also said the county commissioners (Scheub & DuPey) will continue to veto the income tax so it is pretty much a moot point.
Hammond Fourth District Councilwoman Kim Poland also spoke at the meeting. She talked about the ordinance she sponsored regarding take-home cars in Hammond. There are currently 71 take-home cars being used by various city employees. Poland's ordinance is currently in committee and needs to be tweaked before coming back to the council for approval. She will continue to fight for passage of this ordinance.
Mary Ellen Slazyk gave an update on the last school board meeting. She said the school city is looking at purchasing two apartment buildings on 119th Street across from George Rogers Clark Middle/High School for more staff parking. One of the buildings is owned by Donald Osborne, who is currently the President of the Hammond Multi-School Building Corporation, the holding company the school city uses to finance all their school building projects. The other apartment building is owned by a realty company whose address just happens to be the same as Mr. Osborne's business. Mary Ellen agreed Clark has always had parking problems, but questioned whether the sale of these properties would be a conflict of interest. She also said there needs to be more citizen attendance at school board meetings. The next school board meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Thursday, February 12 at the school administration center at 41 Williams Street.
Hammond Councilman-At-Large Bob Markovich spoke next about the wind turbine project for Forsythe Park and Wolf Lake. He said the city received grant money from the state for the project and the total cost of the project would be $195,000. The city would receive about $5,000 a year in electricity credits from NIPSCO. At that rate, it would take the city about 39 years to pay off the project before any potential profit could be realized. Markovich commended the city for looking at alternative energy sources. Audience members questioned the size of the turbines, placement of the turbines in a migratory flyway and if noise would be an issue.
Larry Rapchak then spoke about the staggering impact illegal immigration is having on our education and health care systems as well as property taxes. He spoke about the E-Verify legislation that would greatly benefit Hoosier taxpayers. E-Verify allows employers to electronically verify employment eligibility of newly hired workers. House Speaker Bauer stopped the legislation last year but this legislation needs to be passed this year because it protects Hoosier jobs. Larry said it is also important to fill out legislative surveys either by mail or online because our local state reps and senators need to know this is an important issue with their constituents. He passed out information on E-Verify along with contact information on our NWI state legislators.
A resolution was then passed by Team Hammond members in support of the E-Verify legislation.
Jim Premeske finished off the meeting with upcoming Team Hammond events. Members will continue to attend county council workstudy sessions and meetings and Hammond city council meetings. The public hearing for the wind turbine project will also be held on Wednesday, January 28 at 7:00 p.m. in the city council chambers.
The next Team Hammond meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, February 24, 2009 at the Galaxy Hall in Hessville. The topic of next month's meeting will be public safety and updated crime statistics.
The proposal to permanently place the tax caps in the state constitution passed the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy committee by a party line vote of 8-4. The measure now heads to the full Senate for a vote.
State Senators Ed Charbonneau, Brandt Hershman and Sue Landske voted in favor of the permanent tax caps. State Senator Lonnie Randolph voted against the measure.
Beginning next year, the caps will limit property tax bills to 1% for homeowners, 2% for rental property and 3% for businesses. The caps, enacted last spring by HEA 1001, were designed to give long awaited relief from escalating property tax bills.
If the tax cap proposal passes the legislature this year without any changes, voters will get the opportunity to make the caps permanent via referendum in 2010.
Democratic House Speaker Patrick Bauer has already said he is not ready to pass the tax cap proposal this legislative session until the full ramnifications of the caps on local government are known.
Governor Mitch Daniels and Republicans in the Senate and House want the caps added to the constitution where they would be safe from future legal challenges and legislative action.
"We could wait until next year to do this," said Senator Luke Kenley of Noblesville.
"But the message it would be sending the public is that we really don't know if we want to this."
What it really means is the Democrats want to make sure their lobbyist friends don't lose out on a piece of the pie and to heck with the taxpayers!
The tax cap proposal needs to get passed this legislative session. Let the voters decide in a referendum if we want the caps or not. It is our money and our government. Give us the choice!
Lake Central School Superintendent Gerald Chabot has come out against building a second high school in the Tri-Town area.
"Building a second high school here is fiscally irresponsible," Superintendent Chabot told the referendum task force. "We could never recommend putting this corporation in financial harm's way. It's not going to happen."
Superintendent Chabot points to a similar situation that happened in the Hamilton Southeastern School Corporation (near Indianapolis). Due to a growing population, Hamilton built a second high school about five years ago.
"I asked them how it was going, and they said it wasn't working out real well," he said. "They found the operating costs to run the second high school was just tremendous."
The new high school has yet to enroll all four grade levels and only recently added sophomores and juniors. Because of increased costs, the district will be forced to cut $5 million from next year's budget.
Former Hammond Superintendent David Dixon says the proponents of a second Lake Central high school are out of step with the Indiana legislature. Dixon said, "There are issues on the table to consolidate smaller school corporations so more of the budget funds will go to students-not to pay for more buildings, janitors and extra cooks."
Wow, a superintendent who is being fiscally responsible and refuses to put his school corporation in financial harm's way and a former Hammond school superintendent advocating more budget dollars to go to students and not buildings.
It's what we've said all along about the new Hammond high school. A building does not an education make. It's what goes on inside that really matters.
It's too bad the Hammond school superintendent fails to recognize his school district is already in financial harm's way. Apparently, living within your means and fiscal restraint are not in his vocabulary.
The 71 take-home cars the city of Hammond has owned up to are not just for police officers.
Here is just a sampling of city employees who have take-home cars:
Assistant City Engineer
Assistant Chief Drillmaster, Fire
Battalion Chief Mechanic, Fire
Administrator, Park Department
Superintendent, Park Department
Special Events Coordinator, Park Department
General Foreman, Park Department
Recreation Director, Park Department
Assistant Recreation Director, Park Department
Foreman, Park Department
Community Development Director, Planning Department*
Executive Director, Planning Department
Director of Economic Development*
General Foreman, Sanitation
Traffic Foremen, Street Department
Sergeant, Emergency Management
Corporal, Emergency Management
Assistant Director, Emergency Management
Foremen, Street Department
*Leasing a 2008 Chevy Impala at a cost of $380.43/month for 36 months.
Now, really. Why does the City Controller need a take-home car? Does the controller get called out in the middle of the night to verify accounting figures?
Why does Street Department Foreman Al Salinas, who double dips as 2nd District Councilman, need to drive a 2008 Chevy Silverado with tricked-out wheels?
Why do the Community Development Director and the Director of Economic Development need to drive leased vehicles? Can't they drive their own cars and get reimbursed for mileage like they do in the real world of business?
And what about the Park Department? The Recreation Director, Assistant Recreation Director, and Special Events Coordinator have take-home cars. What the heck for? Why does anybody in the Park Department need a take-home car? The Hammond parks close at dusk.
Team Hammond supports 4th District Councilwoman Kim Poland's ordinance to curb this frivolous and unnecessary expense.
Her ordinance is justified. Especially in these economic times.
How many citizens attending Hammond school board meetings? Very few but maybe more of us should start attending.
Why do you ask? So we can find out what kind of perks the school board members give themselves and citizens have to pay for.
Such as, voting to give themselves health insurance at the cost of $1.00 a year. Yes, you read that correctly.
$1.00 a year!!!!
Health insurance for part-time positions at a cost of $1.00 a year. Wouldn't senior citizens on fixed incomes like health insurance for that price?
All we can say is SHAME, SHAME, SHAME!
Blunt Proof of the Feasibility to Permanently Abolish Property Tax
Melyssa Donaghy 317-938-8913
Max Katz 765-409-6669
BLUNT PROOF OF THE FEASIBILITY TO PERMANENTLY ABOLISH PROPERTY TAX.
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.
PROPERTY TAX HISTORY PREPARED BY DR. BILL STYRING
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.