Property tax caps not a good idea

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The state is taking us for fools.

In the past few years major changes have been made which many legislators have said would "make the lives of Indiana residents better."

At first glance, the property tax caps appeared to be a stroke of genius.

However, it could eventually destroy county and city governments.

Locally, the budget shortfalls are expected to be minimal this year, but when the caps drop to 1 percent for homeowners next year, it could be the beginning of a catastrophe.

The shortfall is anticipated to be more than $100,000 for the city and even more on the county level. Remember, this is the state's doing.

Current lack of funds to repair roads, school buildings and water systems will be magnified exponentially as officials will have to make the ultimate decision; whether to cut services desperately needed or to cut the staffing who work to provide the services.

It's the ultimate lose-lose situation.

On top of that, take into consideration that after a couple of months of reviews, amendments and rejections, House Bill 1001 was approved in the final hours of the legislative session last year. Since then, I have had a few legislators tell me there would need to be a lot of work done to fix some of the mistakes and problems with the bill.

Now why would they pass something knowing there was problems with it? Some may argue because it was an election year, but you may have your own thoughts.

The biggest eye opener I discovered about the property tax caps is they are a violation of the Indiana State Constitution, which is most likely why the state wants to introduce it as a referendum to modify the constitution.

Now, moving on to this year, things aren't any more pleasing.

The state is proposing various bills which would eliminate the county commissioners and hire a single county executive, who would appoint various county positions, therefore, taking some of the voting power away from Indiana residents.

Mind you, these bills exclude Marion County -- and Lake County in some -- from being affected.

To be sarcastic for a moment ... isn't Democracy great right now?

Governor Mitch Daniels has claimed the employment in Indiana has grown in recent years, yet he has backed ideas which have eliminated township assessors and threatens to eliminate the jobs of commissioners around the state.

I don't get it. It's almost as if he is speaking to us while holding a puppet at his side to distract us. Yet somehow, it is working.

It's amazing how the bigwigs at the statehouse sit back and make these major decisions without consulting the smaller areas which would be affected the most.

The property tax caps came about after a few of the larger counties basically had issues with their internal systems and residents had huge tax bills. They complained, the state listened and here we are, facing less services or less employment in Clay County because of it.

Plus, with the potential of a single county executive appointing people to vital positions, the door could be blown off the hinges, allowing the possibility of massive nepotism, incompetence or worse, a lack of knowledge on how to efficiently do the job.

As a reporter, I am supposed to be unbiased and state the facts. But when off the clock, I am a resident, taxpayer and a person who is seeing vital needs and rights slowly being taken away from all of us.

It is frustrating for residents to find their letters and phone calls to legislators wanting explanations or asking for change see their opinions largely ignored. It is the same on this end when trying to gain knowledge, do research and get credible information from sources at the state when there is no response to my calls or e-mails either.

I'd be lying if I claimed to know what could be done to change things, but residents of smaller communities like ours cannot give up.

To me, those supporting taking away voting rights and almost blindly passing legislation knowing all to well that it is wrong better go change the baby because something stinks.

Former President Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." As a small community, Clay County is stuck with a soft voice as far as the statehouse is concerned, but no one said we can't find a big stick and swing it so they will take notice.