"I'd like to have a repeal of property taxes but the only acceptable fallback would be a hard cap, and the governor's plan does have a hard cap and we'll see - I certainly do not want a cap with exemptions. That is the wrong way to go. The only acceptable fallback is a hard cap. I'd still like to see the repeal, though. I do like the local spending controls, because we need those in Marion County and I think in other places also to hold local politicians accountable," Mayor-Elect Ballard said.
Ballard estimated support in the House and Senate for a complete property tax repeal at 30 percent. "We'll see if they can push that across the edge. I don't know if they can or not," he said.
That's exactly what his grassroots supporters wanted to hear him say. Ballard is the man who ran on the pledge to repeal property taxes, which is frowned upon by many State House insiders. He's the man with the mandate. His presence on this issue is most critical. While Gov. Daniels no doubt dislikes Ballard's support for repealing the property tax, he's in reality the best friend Daniels has in the room on this debate. Let me explain.
The special interests are already converging on the State House to convince lawmakers the sky will fall if they do nothing more than tinker around the edges with property taxes like they've done on repeated occasions in the past. If Gov. Daniels and state legislators learned anything from this year's election, it should be that people's patience for addressing this issue has expired. The person with the most at stake is Gov. Daniels. Believe me, if he fails to deliver real property tax relief which taxpayers can see on their property tax bills they get in the mail next year, he can kiss his re-election goodbye.
So how does a repeal versus a Gov. Daniels' partial property tax replacement play into this? The proponents of a repeal go into this game with the upper hand and should negotiate from their position of strength. Any indication at this stage that you will accept anything short of a repeal only serves to weaken your hand. Ballard's presence over at the State House is a critical reminder to lawmakers what will happen to them if they don't listen to what he has to tell them on this issue. He can become a key barometer to gauge public acceptance of any deal reached by lawmakers. Will the repeal effort succeed? Maybe not. But playing that hand can achieve far greater property tax relief than many lawmakers are willing to walk away with right now. These guys tell me I'm going to see a 38% reduction in my property tax bill and I should be jumping up and down with joy. I say, big deal. My property tax bill just went up 65% after increasing three-fold four years ago. That's still more than a 25% jump in one year. Do you get my point?
Mayor-elect Ballard, in the end, may not succeed in getting an outright repeal, but I believe his efforts will help produce much more relief than the governor and a lot of the lawmakers are talking about. And the fallback on the hard caps Ballard mentions in his interview with Rader have to be the line in the sand in this debate. If a relief package is adopted with no bright-line hard caps written into the state constitution, we will have walked away from this debate as losers. The special interest groups demand for more and more spending will eventually drive property taxes right back up just like they have on successive occasions in the past.
Thank you, Mayor-elect Ballard for reaffirming this core, principled position you took in your campaign. You may take a lot of heat from Gov. Daniels and state lawmakers for pushing this idea. But believe me, if it results in an outcome that makes taxpayers happy, they will all be thanking you for your efforts. If they dismiss you, they will meet the same fate so many mayors, including Mayor Bart Peterson (D), met this year in next year's election.