Advance America’s Eric Miller (R), an unsuccessful 2004 Republican gubernatorial candidate, has ramped up his grassroots campaign to eliminate property taxes in Indiana. Rumors are rampant that he will use the issue to launch a primary challenge (while the property tax iron is hot) against the man who defeated him in that primary. He has been organizing anti-tax rallies, and one recent such event in Kokomo caught the attention of the Howard County Council, which has invited him in to offer a presentation on the issue. While Miller had demurred early in the year on a funding solution to compensate for the elimination of the property tax, he’s now advocating a 33% increase in the state sales tax from six percent to eight percent, and raising the state income tax by almost one-third from 3.4% to 4.4%, coupled with a new cap on state spending . . . and he can say now that he’s one of the few who is actually proposing a concrete solution.
You have to give the guy credit for having the foresight to figure out that property taxes would become a big issue heading into next year's election. Unlike his controversial advocacy of social wedge issues like abortion and gay marriage, his support for the elimination of the property tax has much wider appeal. This is all the more reason I think it is important for Gov. Daniels to get serious in a big way about taking action on property taxes this year and not waiting for a solution in a likely, politically-charged legislative session next year.
UPDATE: The Star's Tim Evans has a front-page story discussing Miller's involvement in the issue without any reference to Miller's political ambitions. Quoting Miller, Evans writes:
"These events help keep the pressure on the politicians, because the only way we are going to get change is if politicians decide the risk is too great if they don't do the right thing," Eric Miller, founder of Advance America, said of the anti-tax rallies.
Miller has already organized protests in Hendricks and Howard counties and has another slated for July 30 in Greenwood.
Like many involved in pulling together the rallies, he advocates replacing the property tax with increases in sales and income taxes. And he wants the change to come through a constitutional amendment, so future legislatures can't revive property taxes.
"Right now, we have a window of opportunity to permanently protect homeowners," explained Miller, a former GOP candidate for governor. "I've never seen anything like this public outcry in 27 years working on policy issues."
Miller has drawn on the vast connections of Advance America -- a conservative advocacy group that claims a grass-roots network of more than 45,000 families, 1,500 businesses and 3,700 churches across Indiana -- to help pack the first two rallies.
His group is planning several additional events timed to coincide with the issuance of tax bills in other counties across the state.
Evans also contrasts Miller to other advocates on the issue, including avid AI reader, Melissa Donaghy. "They run the gamut from a conservative Christian family-values advocate to a dominatrix embroiled in a lawsuit with the city," Evans writes. "His background and approach are a far cry from those of Melyssa Donaghy, a dominatrix who has tangled with city officials over the alleged activities that took place in the basement "dungeon" of her Meridian Kessler home." Elaborating further on Donaghy, Evans writes:
Donaghy, who is associated with Hoosiers for Fair Taxation, has whipped up support for the protests through e-mail messages and blog postings. She also pedaled a bicycle around her neighborhood, knocking on doors and talking to anyone willing to listen.
"Melyssa did a lot of work to get this ball rolling," said Andy Horning, who ran for mayor and governor as a Libertarian, then ran for Congress as a Republican. Horning has also been active in the anti-property tax movement.