INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- A plan to phase in caps on property taxes won overwhelming Senate support Tuesday as lawmakers neared a deadline to move legislation to the House.
A bill to reduce the number of tax assessors also advanced as senators said they were looking out for taxpayers.
"We are making every effort to reduce property taxes for taxpayers," said Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville.
The Senate voted 47-1 for a bill to phase in limits on property tax bills. By 2010, bills for homeowners would be capped at 1 percent of their home's assessed value, with a 2 percent cap for rental property and a 3 percent limit for businesses.
The Senate also voted 41-7 for a resolution to begin the process of amending the state constitution to include those caps. Gov. Mitch Daniels has called for the amendment as part of his property tax plan, saying it would make the caps harder to undo.
"This is the bottom-line protection for the taxpayer," said Kenley, chairman of the Senate Tax Committee.
A resolution would have to pass two separately elected General Assemblies and then win approval by voters in a general election.
The earliest it could come up for a vote would be 2010.
The caps, called "circuit breakers," are projected to reduce property taxes by about $600 million by 2010 -- but that's $600 million less that local governments and schools would be able to collect.
Schools could stand to lose more than $150 million in 2010 under the caps, according to estimates from the Legislative Services Agency. Kenley told lawmakers the Senate will need to address that issue when it considers a House bill containing the governor's property tax plan.
The Senate also voted 29-18 for a bill to shift property tax assessment duties from township officials to the county level in most townships with less than 15,000 parcels.
Indiana currently has 1,008 elected township assessors, including many offices in less populated areas that do not actually perform property tax assessments.
The proposal would leave 136 people doing assessments in Indiana -- 92 county assessors and 44 township assessors, said bill sponsor Rep. Connie Lawson, R-Danville.
Opponents of the proposed consolidation say taxpayers like having a local, accessible official to hold accountable. Supporters, including Daniels, say shifting duties to the county level would bring more consistency and fairness to property tax assessments.
The Senate unanimously approved a study committee to explore ways to ultimately repeal property taxes on homeowners.
Some lawmakers had originally pushed for a constitutional amendment to repeal property taxes, something Daniels and other opponents said would require steep increases in other taxes. Instead, the study committee could come up with tax legislation to be considered next year.
This week is the deadline for Senate bills to clear that chamber.
The bills passed Tuesday are among several plans being considered by the House and Senate to address skyrocketing property tax bills for homeowners in some parts of the state.
Many of the proposals could merge into a single bill by the end of session, when the House and Senate try to compromise on what Daniels and legislative leaders say is the session's top priority -- providing immediate, significant and lasting property tax relief and reform.