Saturday, February 14, 2009


In an earlier post, we wrote about Senate Bill 479 (Bill 1660 is the House's version) that would create regional transportation districts in every Indiana county.

Senate Bill 479 reads as follows: permits counties to establish a regional transportation district to plan, design, acquire, construct, enlarge, improve, renovate, maintain, equip, finance, operate, and support public transportation systems. Establishes a fee on vehicle registrations, and permits the creation of allocation areas, the establishment of a special allocation of county option income taxes, and the imposition of a food and beverage tax, a county economic development income tax, or a special benefits property tax to provide funding to regional transportation districts. Permits other public transportation agencies to merge into a regional transportation district. Requires the governor to appoint a deputy commissioner for the department of transportation to assist the commissioner with the public transportation responsibilities of the department. Current Status:

Did you pay attention to the sentence that was highlighted?

Each county RTD will have the power to enact income and food and beverage taxes, a special benefits property tax and a vehicle registration fee. They will have the power to enact these fees and taxes, and there will be no one to stop them. They will have absolute unlimited power in their quest for RTD money.

The members of a county's RTD board will be made up of local elected officials. Not average citizens like you and me but Lake County elected officials. Talk about the fox guarding the henhouse!

The RTD board will make decisions that will affect everyone living in Lake County. Do you want a county option income tax? Do you want a food and beverage tax? Do you want to pay a vehicle registration fee? Haven't you had enough with the property taxes in Lake County?

Why should the RTD have this kind of power to tax and spend at their whim and without any taxpayer recourse?

The two RTD bills are Senate Bill 479 and House Bill 1660.

Start calling, e-mailing or writing your state representatives and senators. Tell them you oppose Senate Bill 479 and House Bill 1660 because it is not in the best interests of the taxpayers, and it gives unlimited power to a board without any checks and balances.

Listed below are the telephone numbers and e-mail addresses for our local state officials:

Phone numbers for the House of Representatives are: 1-800-382-9842 or 1-317-232-9600.

Phone numbers for the State Senate are: 1-800-382-9467 or 1-317-232-9400.

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

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

If you like the idea of more taxes, then do nothing and you will get your wish.

However, if you are against any new taxes and fees, then now is the time to contact the above officials (and the governor, too) and tell them "NO" to Senate Bill 479 and House Bill 1660 and "NO" to any new taxes until they get their spending under control.

The choice is yours.


From our friends at Watchdog Indiana:

This E-mail Update challenges the General Assembly opponents of the constitutional property tax caps in Senate Joint Resolution 1 to debate the merits of their position in public outside the Statehouse shadows. The key points include the following:

1. SJR 1 opponents falsely claim they need more information before they can take a responsible SJR 1 vote.

2. The net effect of 2010 property tax caps on the total expenditures of Indiana's K-12 public school systems will be negligible.

3. The 2010 property tax caps will have NO significant impact on essential service delivery by the great majority of Indiana's 566 cities and towns.

4. SJR 1 opponents are afraid to debate their position outside the Statehouse shadows.

5. Governor Mitch Daniels did his part to support a public SJR 1 debate in his State of The State Address on January 13.

6. Watchdog Indiana challenges every SJR 1 opponent in the General Assembly to a public debate.

7. Watchdogs must act now to insist that General Assembly SJR 1 opponents publicly debate their positions and not hide in the Statehouse shadows.

SJR 1 opponents falsely claim they need more information before they can take a responsible SJR 1 vote. The state's non-partisan Legislative Services Agency issued on January 5, 2009, an updated report of the property tax revenue decline that every local government unit can expect as a result of the property tax caps in 2009, 2010, and 2011. EVERYONE can go to http://www.in.gov/legislative/pdf/CircuitBreaker_2009_BASELINE_20090105.pdf to complete their own analysis of the LSA report. Watchdog Indiana has updated the following two in-depth analyses:

(1) K-12 Schools Impact. The net effect of 2010 property tax caps on the total expenditures of Indiana's K-12 public school systems will be negligible. The state's 293 K-12 public school systems will experience a net revenue decline of $41,631,042. This $41.6 million property tax caps revenue decline is only 0.3% of the $13.5 billion grand total spending by Indiana's schools in 2007. Of the 293 school systems, 286 will experience a revenue decline that is less than 1%. Six school systems will experience a 1% to 2% decline, while only one will experience a decline that is 2.5%. Complete analysis details can be found at http://www.finplaneducation.net/caps_schools_impact.htm.

(2) Municipal Impact. The 2010 property tax caps will have NO significant impact on essential service delivery by the great majority of Indiana's 566 cities and towns. The great majority of cities and towns - 486 or 85.9% - will have their budgeted funds that include property tax levies impacted 5.0% or less by the 2010 property tax caps. The remaining cities and towns will have their 2010 property tax funds impacted 5.1 % or more. Of Indiana's 92 counties, 17 counties MAY need to consider a local option income tax in lieu of finding less expensive ways to maintain essential municipal services for many citizens. Anyone who uses property tax caps in the other 75 counties to justify the imposition of a LOIT is mistaken or intentionally misleading you. Complete analysis details can be found at http://www.finplaneducation.net/caps_municipal_impact.htm.

The false claim calling for more SJR 1 information is nothing more than a delaying tactic based on a cynical belief that public interest will wane and the old ways of doing business can return - a burdensome property tax on working families no matter how much other taxes go up. The real reasons to support the single-interest property tax spenders at the expense of the property tax payers are not discussed in public. SJR 1 opponents are afraid to debate their position outside the Statehouse shadows.

Governor Mitch Daniels did his part to support a public SJR 1 debate in his State of The State Address on January 13. He dedicated more than 10 percent of his Address to beseeching the General Assembly to "show your faith in our fellow citizens" by passing SJR 1 now. Governor Daniels eloquently made the point that "procrastination will add nothing to what we know." The Governor's complete Address can be found at http://www.in.gov/gov/09stateofstate.htm.

Friday, February 13, 2009


By Mary Beth Schneider

Hoping to build public support for government reforms that range from eliminating townships to consolidating library and small school districts, Gov. Mitch Daniels and former Gov. Joe Kernan will hold the first of several "meetups" in Kokomo on Tuesday.

The lobbying push by the two governors may be needed. The bills have come under fire in the Republican-controlled Senate, while the leadership of the Democrat-controlled House has yet to commit to even giving the bills a hearing, much less passing them.

Additional "meetups" will feature Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman and former Democrat Rep. Marilyn Schultz, who is now executive director of Mysmartgov.org, a group formed to advocate for the reforms, who will go to Terre Haute on Feb. 20.

Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall Shepard and former Lt. Gov. Kathy Davis will go to Evansville on Feb. 25.

Kernan, a Democrat, and Shepard, a Republican, were co-chairmen of a local government reform commission which Daniels' appointed.

So far, though, only two bills have made it out of committee. One would create a single chief county executive and eliminate county commissioners in all but Marion and Lake counties. The other would bar public employees from simultaneously serving as an officeholder in their same unit of government, and also move school board elections to November, and have all muncipal officeholders elected in even-numbered years.

In a news conference in his Statehouse office with Mysmartgov.org and business leaders -- including Kevin Brinegar, president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce who also is board chairman of Mysmartgov.org -- Daniels said he's optimistic the reforms will pass.

The lobbying effort is important, though, to help what he called "the definitively good government" effort.

"If only the special interests are heard, then these bills will have difficulty," he said.

Asked about the opposition by some lawmakers, Daniels said that "politicians protecting politicians is neither new nor very pretty sight, ever."

But, he said, polls have shown the public wants the reforms.

From the Indianapolis Star
February 13, 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009



WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors are looking into the possibility that a prominent lobbyist may have funneled bogus campaign contributions to his mentor, Representative John P. Murtha, as well as other lawmakers, two people familiar with the investigator’s questions said Tuesday.

Employees of the PMA Group, the firm founded by the lobbyist, Paul Magliocchetti, have given a total of more than $1 million to political campaigns over the last three election cycles, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

In the first half of 2007, the PMA Group and its clients contributed more than $500,000 to three congressmen, Mr. Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat who is chairman of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, and his close allies on the panel, Representative James P. Moran of Virginia and Representative Peter J. Visclosky of Indiana.

The lawmakers, meanwhile, earmarked more than $100 million in defense spending for PMA clients in the appropriations bills for 2008, according to a study by Taxpayers for Common Sense, which tracks earmarks.

In the last two weeks before the 2008 election, Mr. Murtha went on a last-minute fund-raising blitz, and PMA executives and clients gave him more than $100,000, according to a tally by the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call.

Representatives of the three lawmakers could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Magliocchetti, the firm’s founder, was previously a top aide to Mr. Murtha. Former top aides to Mr. Moran and Mr. Visclosky also worked at the company.

Experts in political law said the lawmakers could be required to return the improper contributions or, if they had turned a blind eye to fraud, they could be in legal trouble.

Campaign treasurers have a duty to scrutinize contributions and return any illegal ones, said Robert Walker, a Washington lawyer who previously directed the staff of the Senate Ethics Committee.

The PMA Group had grown into one of the biggest lobbying firms in Washington. But after a disclosure Monday night that federal investigators had raided the firm, it appeared to be on the brink of collapse. Former PMA lobbyists were scurrying to try to move with their clients to new firms and several announced the opening of a new shop, Flagship Government Relations.

Some symbols of Mr. Magliocchetti’s former influence remain, however. On Tuesday night at the Capitol Grille, a clubby Pennsylvania Avenue steakhouse where lobbyists sometimes entertain lawmakers or clients, there were still about eight bottles in a private wine locker labeled with his nickname, Mags.

From The New York Times
February 11, 2009


Review shows reserves typically exceed annual budgets

By Mark Alesia, Tim Evans, Heather Gillers and Mark Nichols
Posted: February 11, 2009

Indiana's 1,008 townships have amassed more than $200 million in taxpayer money that is stashed in reserves, yet no one -- township officials, state officials or lawmakers -- has made any effort to curb the property tax collections that generated the surplus.

A review by The Indianapolis Star shows that in some cases, the reserves represent more than 10 times the township's annual budget -- far more than necessary for even the most prudent rainy day fund, according to financial experts.

And, despite tough times, the massive reserve includes $50 million in unspent money that was raised specifically to benefit the poor.

Database: See how townships are spending (or not) your money.

The growing bankrolls are fueled, at least in part, by a system that encourages townships to collect the maximum amount of property taxes allowable every year, regardless of need. If townships don't raise the maximum, the amounts they can raise in following years are reduced.

Marion County's Center Township, for example, started this year with a reserve of nearly $10 million, the largest in the state. But it hasn't lowered property taxes.

"If you cut your levy, you don't get to just add it back," said Alan Mizen, the chief financial officer for the township.

So townships keep collecting and, in many cases, stockpiling cash, often without investing any of it.

"To have an excess like that is unconscionable," said R. Mark Lawrance, senior vice president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, which has been at the forefront of the move to eliminate township government.

"It's not the townships' money," he said. "It's the taxpayers' money, and the townships shouldn't continue taxing property owners when they have those reserves."

The huge pool of money is almost certain to be a point of contention when state senators begin debating a bill today that would do away with township government.

The reserves, based on 2007 audited figures, the most recent available, highlight the lack of oversight and accountability that Gov. Mitch Daniels and lawmakers such as Sen. Connie Lawson, R-Danville, the author of Senate Bill 512, cite as reasons for eliminating township government.

"I strongly believe that beyond some point government should stop taking dollars it does not need from taxpayers who do need them," Daniels said.

Township officials, however, contend they are just being prudent, preparing for an economic downturn like the one currently cutting into government revenues and creating a growing need for services.

In the grand scheme of things, said Deborah Driskell, executive director of the Indiana Township Association, townships have little impact on property tax bills, accounting for only about 3 percent of all property tax spending statewide.

But tax watchdogs and advocates for the poor say it is not wise or fiscally responsible for townships to horde the large reserves at a time of unprecedented need and growing public unrest over escalating tax bills.


Who's to blame?

Township officials, state bureaucrats and lawmakers all appear to have some culpability.

"We all have to look in the mirror and say, 'How did we allow this to happen?' " Lawson said.

"A couple of things concern me. Why would (townships) want to raise taxes when they have money in the bank? I also don't know why the state ever allowed it to happen."

A 13-year veteran of the Senate, Lawson said she wasn't aware that the township reserves had grown so large.

"I'm not sure if even the Department of Local Government Finance was paying close enough attention," she said of the state agency responsible for reviewing tax rates and approving how much local units of government can raise and spend.

Townships' annual budgets are developed by the trustee and a township board, then reviewed by the county council. But any recommended changes from those reviews are nonbinding.

Once the budget has been approved at the county level, it goes to the Department of Local Government Finance for a final review.

Department spokeswoman Mary Jane Michalak said the agency checks to make sure the tax rates and levies fall within appropriate state guidelines. However, she said, the department cannot dictate how or whether money is spent.

Michalak said there is no requirement that townships or any other unit of government reduce their property tax rates if they have a general fund surplus.

A report by the Montgomery County League of Women Voters said the budgeting process basically encourages townships to collect as much as the state will allow. The report found some township trustees were discouraged by the Department of Local Government Finance from using surpluses to lower taxes. The unnamed trustees in the report said the department told them "tax rates are difficult to increase once they are lowered."

Michalak said she can't speak to what may have occurred in the past. She said her agency doesn't make such recommendations but acknowledged that some "consider it a penalty if they don't collect the max levy."

"We answer their questions according to the statutes," she said. "We tell them you can (reduce the rate), but just know that your levy will be cut the next year."


Townships also have been able to build the reserves because of the autonomy they have long enjoyed, including almost nonexistent public oversight.

Among the latest 57 township audits posted on the State Board of Accounts' Web site, 40 cited problems. The reports are filled with examples of sloppy accounting, nonexistent documentation, overpayments, inappropriate payments and little attention to detail.

The property tax crisis that erupted in 2007 brought the situation to lawmakers' attention as they looked to lower taxes by cutting government costs. A recent review by the state's Office of Management and Budget estimated a $170 million savings if townships drew down their reserves to 10 percent in the next budget cycle.

Indiana does not have any standards for how much townships should have in reserve funds. It also does not require townships to invest those funds to earn interest.

As a result, some townships have not invested, costing taxpayers even more in the loss of interest.

"It is expensive to hold cash, as it could earn interest or otherwise be put to use," said Jason Seligman, assistant professor of public finance at Ohio State University.

How much is too much?

Seligman said a general rule for county government is a cash balance of about 25 percent of expenditures. Smaller governments such as townships, he said, may want slightly higher cash balances because of less access to credit.

Lawson, the state senator, said 10 percent of the annual budget is a reasonable reserve. She said that is about the amount the state is holding in its rainy day fund.

Mary Hart, president of the Indiana Township Association and trustee of Pigeon Township in Vanderburgh County, said no township should have more than one year's budget as a cash reserve, or 100 percent. Her own township had 29 percent in 2007, according to the state.

Yet five of the 10 townships listed as represented by officers or directors of the township association had more than a year's budget as a cash balance.

Hart said her association communicates best practices but can't force anyone to comply.

"Some elected officials are going to do what they want," she said, "even if it reflects badly on the rest of us.

"We have some (townships) that have always held a high cash reserve. . . . They could lower the tax rate, and that's probably what they should do. But a lot don't because of the unstable economy."

Randy Allen, trustee of Kankakee Township in Jasper County, couldn't explain why his township's cash balance of $708,000 was more than 12 times (1,256 percent) the amount it spent in 2007, according to state figures.

That is the largest such difference, by percentage, in the state.

"I've only been in (office) for two years, and it was that way when I took over," Allen said. "I really don't have an answer. We really haven't talked about it."

Longtime Center Township Trustee Carl Drummer, who announced last month he is leaving the office for a lobbying job, could not be reached for comment. His resignation was effective Monday, and precinct committeemen will vote this month on his replacement, said Marion County Democratic Party Chairman Ed Treacy.

Treacy said Drummer's decision to save up township money, including poverty assistance funds, may turn out to be prudent, given the current economic climate.

"People may have been wondering about that money," Treacy said. "But a lot of people may be happy that that money is there to serve people that really are going to be in desperate need for services."

Still, Aaron Smith, Lebanon, founder of the tax advocacy group Watchdog Indiana, said it is wrong for townships to pad their budgets on the backs of Hoosier taxpayers.

"What it boils down to," he said, "is that some townships have been taxing as much as the law allows when they don't need to spend as much as the law allows. And that is not right."

• Call Star reporter Mark Alesia at (317) 444-6039.

From the Indianapolis Star

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Did You Know?

One good way to get the constitutional property tax caps in Senate Joint Resolution 1 passed by the 2009 General Assembly is through a Taxpayer Friendly Compromise between Governor Mitch Daniels and House Speaker Pat Bauer.

When one considers the state and local tax burden of Hoosier working families, the following Taxpayer Friendly Compromise makes sense:

1. Allow a 2009 House vote on the exact same version of SJR 1 that passed in 2008 in return for spending $300 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund on legislative priorities in the next budget.

2. Using $300 million of the state's $1.3 billion Rainy Day Fund in the next budget makes sense. The current recession is already the third longest since the Great Depression and is not likely to last beyond the next budget. Speaker Bauer is correct when he says "it is raining now."

3. The Taxpayer Friendly Compromise is fiscally responsible because $1 billion will be left in the state’s Rainy Day Fund for future contingencies.

4. To build momentum for the Taxpayer Friendly Compromise, the State Senate can vote on SJR 1 in January, 2009. COMPLETED: The State Senate passed SJR 1 by a 34-16 vote on February 9, 2009.

5. The State Senate, together with Governor Daniels, can decline to accept any budget that uses the Rainy Day Fund until the House votes on SJR 1.

6. SJR 1 supporters should ask those constituents who will benefit to encourage Governor Daniels and Speaker Bauer to accept the Taxpayer Friendly Compromise.

7. The Taxpayer Friendly Compromise will remove SJR 1 as an important partisan issue in the 2010 election.

8. The passage of constitutional property tax caps promises to be a legacy vote for which legislators will be lauded by generations of Hoosiers to come.

9. We The People will get to vote on the constitutional property tax caps in 2010. The collective wisdom of the voters will determine if the constitutional caps and the supporting legislation can be expected to provide a more fair and affordable tax burden while maintaining necessary government services. The SJR 1 decision is so important that it should properly be made by the voters.

10. Rigid political ideology must not get in the way - all SJR 1 supporters can accept the pragmatic Taxpayer Friendly Compromise. The $300 million Rainy Day Fund budget compromise as a good way to get a 2009 vote on the exact same version of SJR 1 that passed the General Assembly in 2008!

From Watchdog Indiana


Please do your part to implement the following Watchdog Indiana Action Plan in support of the constitutional property tax caps in Senate Joint Resolution 1.

1. Contact your State Representative. Phone, E-mail, or send a letter to your State Representative to let him or her know that you support constitutional property tax caps and that you want SJR 1 passed promptly. Information on how to identify and contact your State Representative legislators can be found above.

2. Contact Indiana House Speaker B. Patrick Bauer. Let Speaker Bauer know that you support constitutional property tax caps and that you want him to allow a prompt vote on SJR 1. Speaker Bauer can be reached by calling (800) 382-9842 or (317) 232-9600. His E-mail address is H6@in.gov. You can write to Speaker Bauer at (a) Indiana House of Representatives, 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46204, or (b) 1307 Sunnymede Ave., South Bend, IN 46615. (By the way, also ask Speaker Bauer to meet with Watchdog Indiana. Watchdog Indiana is the leading citizen advocate for constitutional property tax caps. If Speaker Bauer continues to refuse to meet with Watchdog Indiana, then he is admitting that he cares nothing about the desire of Hoosier working families for a more fair and affordable state and local tax burden.)

3. Send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. This is an effective way to show your support for the constitutional property tax caps in SJR 1. The E-mail addresses and online forms for 138 Indiana newspaper editors can be found at http://www.finplaneducation.net/letters_to_the_editor_via_e-mail.htm.

4. Invest $5.42 in a television ad campaign. A very effective cable TV ad campaign could be undertaken throughout the state if one of every three Watchdogs receiving this E-mail Update puts a 42-cent stamp on an envelope and mails a $5 check to Watchdog Indiana. The focus of this positive ad campaign would be to (a) educate Hoosiers on the importance of constitutional property tax caps and (b) motivate Hoosiers to let their General Assembly legislators know that SJR 1 must be promptly passed. Your Watchdog Indiana contributions are anonymous as long as your total contributions are less than $100 a calendar year. The Watchdog Indiana mailing address is 2625 Countryside Drive, Lebanon, IN 46052. Contributions to Watchdog Indiana are not tax deductible.

APATHY IS NOT AN OPTION. You must ACT NOW if the constitutional property tax caps in Senate Joint Resolution 1 are to be saved! Otherwise, the single-interest property tax spenders will win and we will soon have NO property tax relief to show for the latest statewide sales tax increase. The constitutional property tax caps in SJR 1 are necessary for a more fair and affordable working family tax burden.

From Watchdog Indiana, a grassroots taxpayer friendly organization.


By a vote of 34-16, the state Senate voted in favor of setting up a 2010 referendum allowing voters the final decision on whether to place the property tax caps into the Indiana Constitution or not.

The lone Democrat to vote for Senate Joint Resolution 1 was Senator Frank Mrvan of Hammond.
"We had trouble in Lake County (a few years ago) with many people from Whiting and Hammond whose property taxes had doubled or tripled," Mrvan said. "If you looked into their faces, they were afraid of losing their houses."

Thank you, Senator Mrvan, for doing the right thing and standing up for your constituents. And not catering to the special interest groups, lobbyists, or inept elected officials from NW Indiana.

Senator Luke Kenley, R- Noblesville believes the constitutional amendment is the "linchpin" to continuing a 2008 legislative overhaul Indiana sorely is in need of. The overhaul cut property taxes for homeowners by roughly a third, and sales tax was increased from 6 to 7 percent to make up for lost property tax revenue.

However, the caps have hammered the city of Gary hard. The city has lost $30 million in property tax revenue and has appealed to the Distressed Unit Appeals Board.

"We need to give this a little bit more time to see what kind of effect it might have on a city like Gary," argued Senator Earline Rogers, D-Gary. An excuse to do nothing and allow bloated government to continue if we ever heard one.

If Senate Joint Resolution 1 passes this year, the referendum would be placed on the ballet in 2010. Voters would get to decide permanently cap property taxes at 1% of assessed value for homeowners, 2% for landlords, and 3% for businesses.

The tax caps are already a part of House Bill 1001, which passed in March 2008, but they are in conflict with a constitutional provision that calls for equal taxation of residential and business properties.

If voters approve the referendum, the property tax caps would be permanently placed in the Indiana Constitution and would supersede the constitutional provision of equal taxation.

Senate Joint Resolution 1 now heads to the Democratic-controlled House where House Speaker Pat Bauer has made it clear he has no interest in passing the resolution this legislative session. And why is that? Because House Speaker Bauer is a double dipper (works for Ivy Tech) and is cozy with the Indiana State Teachers Association. He knows which side his bread is buttered on! And it's not the taxpayers!

Again, we urge our readers to contact their local state legislators and urge them to vote in favor of SJR1. Is the legislation perfect? No. But it's at least a step in the right direction until we can repeal property taxes for good.


On Monday Senate Bill 452 advanced from a state Senate panel by a vote of 8-3. The bill will now go before the full Senate for approval.

Senate Bill 452, co-authored by Senator Ed Charbonneau of Valparaiso, contains recommendations from the Kernan-Shepard Report. These recommendations include:

1) Moving municipal elections to even-numbered years to coincide with state and federal general elections. In 2007 only 14% of registered voters participated compared with 60% in the 2008 general election. Moving the elections to even-numbered years will save money and encourage more voter participation.

2) Moving school board elections to the general election in November. Another measure to save money and increase voter participation.

3) Allowing all 92 Indiana counties to consolidate precinct polling places into voting centers. Voting centers could be located in grocery stores or other public places giving voters easier and earlier access to voting.

4) Banning local government employees from running for elected office in the same unit in which they work. It would prohibit firefighters, police officers or even, street department foremen, from running for mayor or city council. If they chose to run for office, the ban would force them to quit their dayjobs. Banning dual-office holders would reduce the influence they would have on voting themselves raises and other benefits. A conflict of interest. A good example is Al Salinas, who is 2nd District Councilman and is a foreman for the Hammond Street Department. As city councilman, Salinas made sure he gave himself a nice pay raise and a 2008 Chevy Silverado pickup truck as a take-home car.

We urge our readers to contact their state senators and representatives and ask them to vote in favor of Senate Bill 452. These are good changes that will benefit Hoosier taxpayers and voters.

Monday, February 9, 2009


BY MIKE DELPHIndiana State Senator, District 29

Imagine you were in abject poverty in Central America or India or China and had an opportunity to flee for American opportunity. You take the law into your own hands and pay a smuggler. He agrees to ensure your passage to a safe house in the States.

A family from China did this a few years ago, but never made it to the States because they all suffocated in the shipping container in which they were sealed, but the smuggler made his money. In the case of our southern border, where 80 percent of all crossings are illegal, law enforcement will share stories of smuggler fees as high as $10,000 per person. What's worse, once the smugglers lead their "cargo" across the desert and arrive at the safe house, they coerce concerned loved ones at home into paying even more, threatening to expose the new arrivals, which would result in immediate deportation.

After the final extortion racket, these people, many of whom don't speak a lick of English, are farmed out to various communities throughout the country. They know few people and naturally gravitate to folks who look and sound like they do. Not having a specific job guarantee, they take what they can and enter into modern day American slavery. Some businesses justify this on the grounds that they are providing a better opportunity than could be found at home.

In 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Immigration Reform and Control Act, stating that illegal immigration was a "challenge to our national sovereignty." This was to be the final reform measure needed to once and for all solve our illegal immigration problem. Illegal immigrants in the United States for longer than four and half years were given amnesty. In exchange, businesses were to be held accountable from this point on for knowingly and willingly hiring illegal immigrants.

Unfortunately, this law never truly lived beyond its most generous proposal of the blanket amnesty. But the intention was clear: No more amnesty. The American people had had enough.

This past December, the feds arrested 15 illegal contract workers at the BP Refinery in Whiting. Gary Hartwig, special agent-in-charge of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office of Investigations in Chicago, stated in a news release, "There is a serious public safety concern when illegal aliens ... are working in secure areas of one of our nation's largest oil refineries ... (it) represents a significant vulnerability in our national security."

Costs resulting from illegal immigration are equally staggering. Four surveyed hospitals estimated total unreimbursed health care costs to be $2.7 million per year. Multiply that across the state. Education cost has been estimated to be in excess of $200 million annually. This doesn't include the cost of displaced Hoosier workers who unfairly compete for jobs with noncitizens. With unemployment at 8.2 percent and an estimated 266,469 citizens out of work, Hoosier tolerance for this type of discrimination is low.

The highest judicial ruling on the subject, decided by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, gives us the most up to date legal opinion on the approach of SB 580. It's constitutional. Business leaders are starting to speak out on the effectiveness of E-VERIFY, an identification verification tool for ensuring a stable and lawful work force. The president of Indiana Packers in Delphi, Ind., testifies that the tool has been used successfully by them since 1997.

But for me, this issue is about more than national sovereignty, human rights, jobs, public safety and security. It's about one of our basic pillars of democracy, the respect for the rule of law. As long as America remains the shining light of hope to the world, that principle is worth fighting for.

Let's put principle ahead of profit.

State Sen. Mike Delph represents Senate District 29, which encompasses Carmel and Indianapolis. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.

Guest Commentary from The Times
Monday, February 9, 2009

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.