Monday, April 30, 2007

The Circus Has Left Town

The Circus has left town--a fitting description for the ball juggling and high wire acts performed by the Indiana General Assembly to piece together a budget for the next biennium. The good news is that it is supposedly a truly balanced budget--at least on paper. The bad news is that it is built on a foundation of quicksand. Yes, lawmakers will boast that they are providing you $550 million in property tax relief over the next two years. But to pay for that relief, the legislature is gambling on two new land-based casinos being established at the state's two horse race tracks at a buy-in cost of $250 million, plus added gaming revenues collected from the casino industry.

If the legislature had done nothing about property taxes, the average property tax bill would rise by 24% when tax bills come out over the next 4 weeks. Under the legislation passed by the General Assembly, your property taxes are still going up on average 24%. What about the $550 million in tax relief? You're going to have to wait until the end of November to receive a rebate check from the state, which will equate to reducing your property tax increase from a whopping 24% to 8%. That's still higher than property taxes have increased in recent years--a figure closer to 5%.

What House Minority Leader Brian Bosma calls a "harebrained idea" is the plan conceived by House Speaker Pat Bauer to deliver the tax break via a "check in the mail" instead of a credit directly on your tax bills. That's because Bauer wants legislators to be able to send a mailing to all taxpayers taking credit for the rebate check. As Bosma pointed out in debate, mortgage companies will immediately recalculate monthly mortgage payments for those homeowners who escrow their property tax payments, as they are required to do so under federal law, for at least the next year to account for a 24% increase in property tax bills, thereby wreaking havoc on homeowner's budgets. This is government at its worst.

More importantly, there is no guarantee the revenues upon which the $550 million in tax relief are based will materialize. If there are delays or financing for the horse race tracks don't materialize, legislators will have to be called back into a special session to fix the property tax problem they refused to fix with this legislation. Even if the funding materializes, it only partially fixes the problem of mammoth property tax increases for the next biennium. All bets are off in two years. Moreover, there is no assurance local governments won't increase taxes further. In fact, that is certain to happen, particularly here in Marion County where Mayor Bart Peterson failed to win support for his IndyWorks plan to further consolidate local government services into Uni-Gov. His plan died because African-American legislators in Marion County were more concerned about protecting the jobs of Center Township Trustee Carl Drummer and other recently elected African-American trustees than in improving the delivery and efficiency of government services. As a consequence, Carl Drummer will be allowed to go on fleecing Center Township taxpayers.

The legislature has also provided local governments with the option of raising additional revenues through the local income tax option. While these increases theoretically could lower property tax bills, the legislation does not ensure this. Marion County has had the local income tax for years, and it has never produced the property tax relief its proponents claimed it would bring taxpayers. So in the final analysis, after all the talk this session, legislators achieved no true property tax reform, and the taxpayers come up the big losers in the end game.

Gov. Mitch Daniels has something to crow about. The legislature approved his plan to provide health insurance to the poorest of Indiana's uninsured called "Indiana Check-Up." A 44-cent increase in the cigarette tax will pay for the new program, which is estimated to generate about $220 million. Unfortunately, not all the money raised by the cigarette tax increase will be used to pay for the program. Of the increase, 33 cents will go for the health insurance plan while the remaining 11 cents will be used to fund pet projects of legislators, including increased Medicaid coverage for pregnant mothers and the state's tobacco cessation program.

The Governor also won a partial success on full-day kindergarten. The legislature approved $92 million in funding for FDK; however, it is not a mandatory, statewide program. It merely gives local schools the option of receiving grants from the state if they desire to start up FDK.

And I shouldn't forget the best part of all. Remember, lawmakers earlier in the session approved a pay raise, which will boost their annual pay by at least $10,000 a year, bumping the average pay for the part-time legislators to well in excess of $50,000. Gov. Daniels has already signed that pay increase into law. In the 11th hour, lawmakers came back and provided leaders and key lawmakers an additional $500 bonus. At least a couple dozen legislators in both houses will benefit from this last-minute gift to lawmakers for a job well done.

26 comments:

Wilson46201 said...

Center Township uses only 1.45% of your Center Township tax bill -- it's peculiar that allegedly compassionate and frugal Hoosiers would be so fascinated about eliminating a local office that assists the poor and needy that uses such a teensy portion of taxes. Surely greater economies could be found somewhere in the 98.55% of your Center tax bill?

The Center Township Trustee Office has been historically the center of African-American political activity in the County -- it's most peculiar why eliminating this particular office should be such a necessity for the GOP. Considering the very-white Republicans have only one Black elected official (one city councilor) in Marion County, African-Americans are rightly suspicious of this attempted wipe-out of 'their' Center Trustee...

Anonymous said...

AI,

I know it sounds great to say land based casinos, but slots are not casinos at least not my definition. Personally I would attend to play blackjack, but since that will not be offered, my money will not be visiting. I do know that most of the customers will be senior citizens, and many of them enjoy slots. I see nothing wrong with this entertainment.

Advance Indiana said...

As you well know, Wilson, the plan called for the elimination of all township trustees in Marion County, not just your former employer. The last time I checked Frank Short's skin color was white. He's not complaining about losing his trustee's job he just got elected to in Washington Township.

Anonymous said...

Given your affinity for numbers wilson46201 please explain why you and your overwhelming black vote getters in Marion County don't elect a black mayor?
Given the extreme wide margin of victories and such incredible cost saving services provided by Center Township Trustee Carl Drummer then I would think he would have made an excellent candidate for the black community to run against Peterson in the primary. Surely the "Machine" would have had no trouble getting Drummer elected.
Since the black MCHD's have tossed IndyWorks in the trash then why not finish the job off and run Drummer against Peterson.
I mean this IS all about the black community isn't it?

Wilson46201 said...

African-Americans make up only 41% of Center Township -- only 24% of Marion County. UniGov was put in place 40 years ago precisely to prevent another Cleveland or Gary (in the words of Dick Lugar). Those were code words for "preventing a Black Mayor".

Times change -- we now have an African-American Sheriff, Auditor, Treasurer and Coroner -- all Democrats. The GOP never ran Blacks in county offices that were winnable.


Interestingly, Congresslady Julia Carson was the first African-American elected from a majority white district (except Ron Dellums in Berkeley). The 7th CD is less than 1/3 African-American.

Obviously, Marion County Democratic voters are not particularly prejudiced -- white Democrats do elect Blacks and vice-versa!

Anonymous said...

Why do you decry tobacco cessation and Medicaid coverage for pregnant mothers (sic) as pet projects? Is that because the governor didn't ask for it? Both of these projects seem like reasonable uses of cigarette tax funds to me.

Anonymous said...

Then what you are saying then Wilson46201,is that the black community cannot elect a black mayor in Indianapolis. Is that right?
Forget UNIGOV, your party's in power now, not the Republicans.
Why not run Drummer for mayor? Now if Carson can win then there is absolutely no reason why a black candidate like Drummer should lose is there?
Your last statement was extremely condescending to the Indianapolis black community.
You mean to tell me that if a black mayor were elected in Indianapolis that the city would turn into Gary or Cleveland?
What's wrong with Gary and Cleveland?
Good gracious Wilson, this is the year 2007 not 1967 and NO black candidate for mayor of Indianapolis can be fielded by the Democratic party?
Your saying that ONLY a white Democrat candidate for mayor of Indianapolis can WIN and that a white democrat mayor is the only salvation in this town for the black community?
I think you're selling the black community short but then maybe you're right about Gary and Cleveland.

erik said...

Hey Wilson, what do yo think about Bauer's moronic idea to give us checks? How about the credit now? No credit because no funding for it....There will be no check. Surprisingly quiet, could it be that you actually agree a Democrat screwed up? Indy Works has apparently come full circle. 3 years ago it was the Republicans who wanted to save the trustee's offices, and the Dems who wanted all control to head downtown. Now things are the exact opposite? There is no reason why poor relief can't happen via the mayor's office. With no fire departments to run, no need for trustees and their cronyism. No empty buildings, no shady leases, no bars in government buildings. Drummer spends more than $2 for every $1 dollar he gives in relief. He is a crook, so is his assessor, and you Wilson may want to continue to turn a blind eye out of ignorance, but the taxpayers of Marion County have had enough.

Wilson46201 said...

Erik: it's trivial to call somebody a crook oh-so casually. Public figures cant sue for such libel per se. What if folk called you a carjacker, pickpocket, shoplifter and peeping-tom without evidence or proof? How does that help discourse or civility? I doubt if you can even name the Assessor you so slanderously called "a crook". Be decent!

Erik lives way out in Wayne Township, not Center, so Drummer etc costs Erik nothing in taxes. It's just cheap partisan mudslinging!

Marion County is slowly changing - a Black Mayor of Indianapolis is finally a possibility again. The Republicans ran only white candidates for winnable offices for 40 years -- with a new Democratic majority, the city/county leadership is finally more diverse and representative of all citizens of Marion County.

If the GOP was really serious about a Black Mayor, why don't they find, slate and fund a winning campaign for a qualified African-American mayoral candidate?

[ for that matter, anybody for Mayor? ]

Anonymous said...

I just received an email regarding the black MCHD's decision to derail Peterson's Indy Works plan.
Some of you may find this very hard to believe just as I did, especially after reading some post about Center Township Trustee Carl Drummer.
It appears that Drummer will be Carson's chosen replacement when she elects to step down. This is why the African-American community power structure in Center Township does not want to cede any power to Mayor Peterson that he wanted under his Indy Works plan. Elimination of part or a whole of the Township Trustees would have been a dilution of power and influence of the Center Township Trustee and influence of the black vote.
Elimination of the Center Township Trustee would have severely weakened perhaps the single most important component in the Carson "machine".
With the Center Township Trustee gone then the Peterson organization could have exerted a major influence on who would succeed Carson thus consolidating more power in the Mayor's camp than otherwise would have been the case. He would also have actually gained more support in the outlying Townships as well given the fact that blacks only represent 24% of voters in all of Marion County.
In effect, with Indy Works completely in place the Mayor would have complete control over the entire Marion County Democratic Party INCLUDING Center Township.
This is precisely the reason why the Mayor brought in O'Conner as Marion County Democratic Chairman.
Peterson does NOT need the Center Township black vote to gain reelection nor has he needed it in the past. The Indianapolis black community needs Peterson far more than he needs them.
At it's core, this power struggle is both racial and political with no end in the immediate future.
For now, Peterson has lost round one with the defeat of his Indy Works plan.
How he chooses to retaliate of course, will most likely be left up to O'Conner.
Hard to imagine Carl Drummer as Congessman Drummer but that most assuredly will not happen as long as Peterson is Mayor.
This is going to get ugly, real ugly.

Anonymous said...

Wilson46201, It does seem far more reasonable that the Marion County Democratic Party would field a black candidate for mayor long before the GOP does.
Why has that not happened Wilson? The answer is very simple. There is not enough votes and there is not enough money.
White Democrats may talk the talk when it comes to a black mayor of but they would vote with their feet to the exurbs in the donut counties the day that happens.
Could it be that Peterson's Indy Works is a bold attempt to keep a black mayor out of office in this county?
Makes one wonder.

Wilson46201 said...

Let me speak ex cathedra: Only Republicans imagine that Carl Drummer is the chosen successor to our Congresslady Julia Carson. There are at least 50 other Democrats with such aspirations. Maybe more...

Anonymous said...

Why wouldn't Drummer make a good replacement for Carson Wilson?
He's young, he's got the office, he's got the money, he's got the support of the black community and he has been a winner with wide margins. He's even a Sagamore of the Wabash!
Now you may be correct that there may be 50 or more candidates but lets get serious. Drummer been annointed by the powers that be and is a team player with the powers that be.
Name me three people that Drummer can't beat in a primary? Hell, just name me two.
Aaaaaaand it always helps to have Julia's blessing which Drummer already has been given.
You don't think a white guy would run against Drummer in a primary do you?

Wilson46201 said...

Yes

erik said...

Care to answer my question about the fiasco at the Statehouse with the fearless DEMOCRAT Pat Bauer??? Or you gonna dodge it with defense of a trustee that has a govt issued take home car with police lights and siren, yet no police powers. Don't forget about the tax-free empty real estate he has purchased also. How exactly do empty buildings used to store cars along Mass Ave provide poor relief to the citizens of Center Township? All you have to do is answer the two questions I've posed in this comment and I will never post here again. I just want to see if you really can put YOUR partisan politics aside for once.

Wilson46201 said...

1. Drummer has police powers as deputized by the Center Constable. They are considerable. Consult an attorney for confirmation!

2. The property Center bought was the old Fall Creek YMCA which never was on the tax rolls since it was a 501c3 charity.

3. The vintage car storage story is a lie started by an unsuccessful perennial candidate and notorious homobigot and liar. I had total access to all areas of Center Township properties as Clerk and Sys/Admin. I saw NO cars in storage. The currently empty building at 869 Mass Ave was bought in 1973 along with the main property at 863 Mass Ave at a charitable price from Mayflower. It costs money to demolish old structures. There are various proposals floating around to utilize this land soon.

Erik lives out in Wayne Township yet he repeats out of ignorance nonsense and lies about Center. Tend your own garden!

Peer said...

Erik, take your Ritalin and try to focus. In light of the budget realities, Bauer's plan is neither a fiasco nor moronic.

The first budget reality is that the legislature didn't learn of the 24% increase until a week ago...and they moved very quickly after finding out about it. That they learned about it last week is not Mr. Bauer's fault - and it's not like the R's knew anything any sooner.

The second budget reality is that the budget takes effect at the beginning of the next fiscal year - July 1, 2007. Tax assessments are owed in May (and November). Some assessments have already been mailed. While a tax credit might be the generally correct way of fixing this, a tax credit in July won't work if you have already paid the tax. Because you've already paid the tax, what you need is...well, a check. Or a time machine. At any rate, it's hardly a moronic idea...and it's not like Mr. Bosma offered a realistic alternative to the check anyway.

And of course this needs to be fixed next session - but no one has suggested that it won't be. And as for the paranoid suggestion that the money won't be there in November - well, both the R's and D's in the statehouse, as well as nonpartisan analysts, seem to believe that the budget balances. The only person who believe that the money won't be there is you. For which I prescribe lithium.

Please consume all of your medication with food and do not operate heavy machinery.

Anonymous said...

Wilson, you don't suppose that some developers might have their eyes on those prime properties on Mass do you?
Could Bart have made some promises that he can't keep to developers?
When they're turning anything and everything into condos down in the "Green Zone" one would think just those tow pieces of real estate would bring a choke of change.
I was friends with Ralph who used to manage the Y on Fall Creek years ago. He since went back to NY City. The Y at Fall Creek, for all intents and purposes went to the Atheneum since it was an extension of the Fall Creek Y at the time.
Now that the area where the Fall Creek Y was located is now hot for porcelain urban pioneers I'm sure some developers would like to have that parcel as well.
Personally, I think it was a mistake for the city not to assist in keeping that Y open.
It just appears that this thing is boling down to some real estate that Bart can't deliver on.
Of course, with the Center Township Trustee gone it would have made it much more easier for the Mayor to get those properties to his buddies.
Just my opinion.

Erik said...

Thanks for all your Wisdom Mr. Allen. I apologize for ruffling your feathers. Although I'm sure our fine mayor is a little upset Mr. Crawford sold him out to keep his buddy Mr. Drummer gainfully employed at the best part-time job in the world, a Marion County Trustee. Good bye, God bless, take some time to smell the roses, and RESPECT others regardless of whether or not they agree with you. Remember to be a good liberal, and don't defend things you know are wrong(Twp government being the big one).

Anonymous said...

"nder the legislation passed by the General Assembly, your property taxes are still going up on average 24%.

As Bosma pointed out in debate, mortgage companies will immediately recalculate monthly mortgage payments for those homeowners who escrow their property tax payments, as they are required to do so under federal law, for at least the next year to account for a 24% increase in property tax bills, thereby wreaking havoc on homeowner's budgets.

And I shouldn't forget the best part of all. Remember, lawmakers earlier in the session approved a pay raise, which will boost their annual pay by at least $10,000 a year, bumping the average pay for the part-time legislators to well in excess of $50,000."

Ahhhh. The coming days of massive civil unrest resulting in the burnoff of useless eaters may come sooner rather than later. How many years of adding $100/month to property tax bills before folks finally start loosing their homes? How long until people just say "enough" and give up, leaving folks like Carl Drummer and others to feed, house, and cloth them? Will the Center Township slum lords finally give up on renting in the ghetto?

"As a consequence, Carl Drummer will be allowed to go on fleecing Center Township taxpayers."

Good. The people of Center Township get what they voted for. Don't like, move. It is as simple as that. If you want to live urban, you must pay to play. In the case of Indy, those with money have to pay because the urban part of Indy has lots of welfare types living there that need a bailout, I mean handout.

Wilson46201 said...

Erik: Poor relief was started by Good Queen Bess (Elizabeth I of England) and brought to this country by colonialists. We had poor relief in the Territory of Indiana before the state was a state. The Township system exists in 1008 townships all over Indiana since 1851 -- only 9 Marion County townships were to be eliminated - leaving 999 townships in place.

Erik, a true conservative would want to keep weak, local units of government with elective offices, instead of vast centralized bureaucratic unelected entities, dontcha think? I like democracy, not bureaucracy! Save our Hoosier heritage, save our Township Trustees...

Wilson46201 said...

Center Township combined government and poor relief is only 1.45% of your Center Township tax bill. Big whoop!

Anonymous said...

"Center Township combined government and poor relief is only 1.45% of your Center Township tax bill. Big whoop!"

In your book, at what percent does fiscal responsibility matter?

darylwilburn said...

It still costs Drummer more than $2 to give a buck in poor relief. Does this seem right? Abolish township government state wide and end the political gameplaying on both sides of the aisle, both liberal and conservative.

James said...

Also, there is not money yet to send out the checks. They will come out in November, when the state is capable of paying them.

As for B-Boz calling it a 'hair-brained idea,' let us not forget that it was a Republican, former Governor Otis Bowen, that came up with this idea the first time. While Speaker Bauer may be copying it, he is hardly the first...

Wilson46201 said...

darlwilburn: no, it doesnt cost Center over $2 for each dollar in assistance rendered -- that's a bookkeeping fiction. Townships have at least two main accounts: how costs are allocated have legal and political consequences. For various arcane reasons, Center apportions most of its expenses to the Poor Relief account - other townships find it advantageous to assign as little as possible to Poor Relief. The disadvantage to Center's perfectly legal method is that it looks bad to outsiders. Callous politicians have seized on this illusion of profligacy to denounce aid and assistance to the poor and needy. They put partisanship above people!