Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Councilor Ben Hunter Accuses Taxpayers Of Getting Subsidies As He Votes To Hike Taxes Again

Get Microsoft Silverlight Perhaps no other member of the council exhibited more hostility to ordinary taxpayers as he voted to support two new tax increases on ticketed admissions to public events and auto rentals than Councilor Ben Hunter, who insists on attacking what he calls subsidies being paid to homeowners in the form of the homestead property tax credit. All homeowners combined receive a tax reduction of about $9 million annually on their property tax bill, which is paid out of local income tax receipts. Mayor Greg Ballard and Republican councilors proposed eliminating the homestead property tax credit to provide more funding for public safety in this year's budget, calling it a tax benefit that only benefits wealthier homeowners. An analysis of who receives the credit completely disproved their claim. In actuality, the homestead tax credit benefits homeowners with moderate and lower-assessed values disproportionately. Many higher-assessed homes have reached the tax cap and receive no benefit from the credit. Yet Councilor Hunter has persisted in claiming that the property tax benefit is nothing more than a subsidy for people who can and should be paying higher taxes.

The comments made by Councilor Hunter at last night's council meeting were made during a discussion of the admissions tax increase. Councilor Hunter says there is a continued need to resolve the ongoing problem with funding public safety. What he doesn't explain is that Indianapolis income taxpayers saw their tax rates raised 65% in 2007 to enact what was dubbed a public safety tax because it was said to benefit only public safety. Despite assurances the tax would allow at least 100 new police officers to be hired, that never happened. We now have fewer police officers on the streets than we had in 2007. Where did the money go, Councilor Hunter?

It takes a lot of nerve for Councilor Hunter to accuse taxpayers of receiving a subsidy for a tax credit they receive on their property tax bill payable from the income taxes they pay. Lest we forget that part of the sale to taxpayers for enacting a local income tax was to lessen local government's reliance on property taxes for their funding. A subsidy, Councilor Hunter, is the $6.5 million you supported giving to Ersal Ozdemir to build his new parking garage in Broad Ripple, or the $10 million a year you support giving to billionaire Herb Simon's Indiana Pacers. Sure Councilor Hunter supports raising the admissions tax. It's a tax that he doesn't pay because he's the first in line whenever a special interest representative or lobbyist is offering free tickets to councilors as a reward for the favorable votes they cast. Now that's a subsidy. Tickets and other freebies Councilor Hunter has accepted since becoming a councilor total in the thousands of dollars and would definitely fall into the category of subsidies for the Hunter household. Perhaps if special interests were forced to issue 1099s to all public officials who accept their gifts, there would be a whole lot less gift-giving. Better yet, why don't we bar gifts to our public officials altogether? Maybe then their judgment won't become so clouded when making decisions about whose taxes should be raised. I also wanted to point out that only two Republican councilors bucked the Mayor and the GOP leadership to vote against the two tax increases, Councilors Christine Scales and Jack Sandlin. The new GOP councilor from Bloomington, Jefferson Shreve, voted for both tax increases.

UPDATE: Showing his true colors, Councilor Hunter tweeted during last night's council meeting this derogatory comment about fellow Councilor Brian Mahern, who spoke out against the tax increase:
Mahern is talking. There was a baby crying in the chamber earlier, he should run & kiss it and let the 2 yr old know he's running for Mayor.
Hat tip to Jon Easter, and I concur with his assessment on his blog that councilors on both sides of the aisle were embarrassingly disrespectful to one another.


Paul K. Ogden said...

Bob Lutz also voted against the tax increases. McHenry voted against the admissions tax.

Jon said...

So Mr. Hunter what would you call the billion plus dollars in buildings for the Pacers and the Colts? Isn't that a subsidy?

Gary R. Welsh said...

Not so, Paul. Lutz voted for the admissions tax. By leadership agreement, the Rs allowed certain members a pass on voting for each tax increase. On the Republican side, Lutz, McHenry, Holliday and Freeman split their votes on the two proposals. Shreve, Gooden, Hunter, McQuillen, Miller and Pfisterer voted for both tax increases because they believe they can vote however they want without consequences at the polls. On the Democratic side, Adamson, Evans, Gray, Mahern, Mascari, Mansfield, Oliver and Simpson all voted no on both tax increases.

Cato said...

Hunter's a cop. Has this tax leech ever drawn a dollar from the private sector (that wasn't derived from a rent)?

Flogger said...

The powers that be in both parties certainly do not like Brian Mahern.

They are alarmed that all their "perks" may be exposed to sun light.

They seem worried he actually might take a run at being elected Mayor.

Given some comments I have read about the newly minted Council Member Shreve, I am surprised the Democrats have not been on the prowl. The Dems are so silent on this issue of residency.