Sunday, February 22, 2009

More On The Worst Legislature

A Star analysis of the job township trustees do in delivering relief to the poor confirms what you already knew. They do a lousy job.

A continuing examination of township government by The Indianapolis Star reveals the following: Administrative costs are excessive, reducing the amount of taxpayer money available to the poor; and eligibility requirements are so inconsistent that whether someone receives aid often depends more on where they live than on how badly they need assistance.

According to the Star analysis, average average administrative costs statewide are 74 cents for every dollar given in aid. Marion County's Center Township's Trustee spends $1.74 for every dollar given in aid. The story doesn't explain why Center Township's costs are so high, but it essentially boils down to the fact that Carl Drummer, like his predecessor Julia Carson, uses the office to employ as many political hacks as needed to work the polls on election day without regard to the quality or quantity of the work they perform for taxpayers. Other interesting facts:

  • One-fifth of the townships delivered aid to five or fewer people in 2007.
  • Income aid ranged from $350 a month to $1,800 a month.
  • In Marion County, eight of nine townships failed to file a report annually detailing eligibility requirements.
  • 89 townships failed to file accounting records for aid to the poor.
  • Townships have amassed large reserves, including $50 million intended for aid to the poor.

An interesting note on why Center Township has written criteria for eligibility while the other townships in Marion County don't. During the late Julia Carson's reign as Center Township Trustee, she was sued by the ACLU for applying arbitrary standards for determining eligibility. She deemed the lawsuit frivolous at the time but agreed to change the way the township did business as part of a settlement agreement.

Hope of getting legislation passed to eliminate the politically-driven and inefficient township trustees and replacing them with a professionally-run county office was flushed down the toilet in the Senate this week. That should make radio talk show host Amos Brown happy. He has decided that anyone who favors a better system is a racist. According to Brown, only a "lily white group" favors the change. He has told his radio listeners that Mitch Daniels is a racist, Mayor Greg Ballard is a racist, Senator James Merritt is a racist. This past week, he concluded the same about Marilyn Schultz and Kevin Brinegar, coalition organizers. Brown is beginning to sound like Uncle Leo on "Seinfeld", who was convinced every non-Jew was anti-Semitic. Don't confuse Brown with the facts. He would rather protect the high-paid jobs of a handful of elected black officials by defaming the proponents than do something to help poor blacks dependent on the delivery of services at which these elected officials are failing miserably.

Meanwhile, the Star's political columnist Matt Tully reminds us of how Indiana lawmakers take care of themselves while killing the township reform legislation in order to protect the jobs of their political cronies. Remember that health care for life perk the legislature finally eliminated for themselves and family members after a public outcry? Well, they slipped another health care perk for themselves through the legislature when nobody was looking. It's a supplemental health care savings account worth about $1,000 for each year of service for their part-time job. The benefit becomes vested after 10 years of service; it's 15 years for full-time state employees.

The same super wealthy Noblesville senator who wants to raise your taxes to bail out the CIB for the benefit of the billionaire sports team owners, Sen. Luke Kenley, sponsored the perk, which passed the Senate on a vote of 47-1. The House passed the measure by a 77-21 vote with Rep. Charlie Brown taking the authorship honor. Tully notes that the House-passed budget uses $23 million in revenues derived from the cigarette tax increase for the state's new Health Indiana Plan for low-income persons to access affordable health care plan to pay for part of the costs of their new perk. Tully says there was a brief discussion on the benefit during debate on the budget. Tully writes, "Defending the decision to do so, Ways and Means Chairman Bill Crawford, D-Indianapolis, offered fellow lawmakers this gem: 'Remember,' he said, 'we got a benefit out of that.'"

While legislators are busy lining their own pockets with this generous health care perk, they are continuing their annual tradition of killing meaningful lobbying reform legislation, including Sen. Mike Delph's proposals to reduce the threshold for lobbyists to report gifts to legislators from $100 to $25 and to file more frequest reports of their lobbying activities. The same fate has been handed to Sen. Pat Miller's proposal to make legislators wait at least a year after they leave the legislature before they become a lobbyist. Yep, Harrison Ullman was right. It's the worst legislature.


Douglass said...

I am still not quite clear about why township governments are supposed to be aiding the poor. Is this a charity or is it government?

Wilson46201 said...

"Poor Relief" was started as a government function by Queen Elizabeth I of England -- it was continued in the American colonies. Poor relief laws were adopted by the Indiana Territory even before statehood. Today, this function is administered at the local level by Township Trustees and called "Township Assistance".