Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Republicans On Tax Panel Vote To Hike Taxes In Indianapolis

Republicans rode a wave of anti-tax sentiment to retake the Mayor's office in 2007. Ever since, they've been backpedaling, advocating tax increases at every turn. Yesterday's vote of a bipartisan tax commission was no different. Republican appointees on the panel voted to eliminate the homestead property tax credit in a 6-4 vote, a move that will hike property taxes for most homeowners in order to increase revenues for the city-county government by over $8 million at the expense of reducing tax revenues to most other taxing districts, including schools.

Incredibly, the panel also wants the City-County Council to consider hiking local income taxes to help fund public safety. In 2007, Mayor Bart Peterson and the Democratic-controlled council raised local income taxes 65% to increase funding for public safety. Greg Ballard and Republican council candidates attacked Peterson and the Democrats mercilessly for raising income and property taxes. Despite promising to make public safety job one, there are now fewer police patrolling the streets than the day Ballard took office in January, 2008 after the gigantic public safety tax increase.

Republicans claim the efforts are needed to close a $55 million budget deficit, even though Mayor Ballard claims he has been adopting honestly-balanced budgets each year while he's been in office, a fete made possible only by sleight of hand budget gimmicks that most council members lack the time and effort to discern.

There are questions about the validity of the panel's vote. There were only five members present to cast votes in favor of the proposed elimination of the homestead property tax credit sought by Mayor Ballard. Republican council member Marilyn Pfisterer, who comes from the background of a double-dipping government household, decided she was entitled to cast two votes in favor of the proposal by casting a proxy vote for another Republican council member who was absent for the vote, Jack Sandlin. Proxy votes are not permitted under council rules.

Dishonest politicians blame property tax caps for the City's revenues woes. The real culprit is the continued decimation of the tax based relied upon to fund basic government services caused by passing out hundreds of millions of dollars in direct subsidies and tax breaks to businesses which contribute generously to the politicians' campaigns, dole out free tickets to sporting events and provide junkets and other freebies to them. This is achieved by continually removing a significant portion of the property tax base available to other taxing districts through the expansion of TIF areas, which are nothing more than slush funds operated to reward favored businesses at the expense of all other taxpayers.

UPDATE: Apparently Pfisterer is not a voting member of the commission; she simply showed up to cast a vote in Sandlin's absence. The Star's Jon Murray is now reporting that the commission's co-chair, Jim Steele, a Republican, intended to have members cast their votes by a secret ballot until other members objected. The four no votes included Democrats Vop Osili, Frank Mascari and Dan Sellers, along with Republican Bob Lutz. Democratic County Assessor Joe O'Connor voted with the five who supported the elimination of the credit. In addition to Steele, O'Connor and Pfisterer's vote for Sandlin, MIBOR's Chris Pryor, Co-Chair Beth Henkel and Jeff Spalding, former city controller and an architect of Ballard's disastrous, dishonestly-balanced budgets, voted with the majority.

9 comments:

Veracity said...

So who voted no? Why don't you mention them in the story?

Gary R. Welsh said...

Umm, It's a bipartisan panel. If the Republican appointees supported it and four voted against it, one might conclude Democrats voted against it. The Star story doesn't say who was present for the vote and for some reason WCTY hasn't posted video of the meeting online so I can't speculate beyond what the Star reported. Why don't you ask the Star's Jon Murray why he didn't provide a breakdown of the vote in his story?

Louis Mahern said...

The larger question is "Why did the Council Democrats agree to establish a commission where they would be in the minority when they are a majority on the council?" Could it be they were seduced by baubles? E.g. Maggie Lewis' $400,000 over the past 4 years for her non-profit, Vop Osili's, Joe Simpson's and John Barth's TIF goodies.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Good point, Louis. There's plenty of blame to go around.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Maggie Lewis is either a really bad political strategist or she is, as you suggest, Louis, purposefully caving in on these issues.

The key will be if the two D councilors on the Commission voted against it. If so, the D's plan to use it against Ballard in 2015. If it's not part of a bigger strategy, I think Vop Osili would have supported it.

Pete Boggs said...

There is no party of Constitutionally reconciled (law) small government; just one party that goes by two names.

Louis Mahern said...

Paul,

She is both.

CircleCityScribe said...

Did anyone ever ask this?

-Our Mayor states there is a $55 Million Public Safety budget deficit. Now where is the audit of what Frank Straub did with our money???

Some things we know he did:

1) Remodeled his suite of offices to include a personal shower (why did he need one when all other city employees shower at their homes. The cost of Straub's remodeling was more than the cost of most homes in Indianapolis. Mayor Ballard, we taxPAYERS need an answer!

2) The city has been laying off police officers by attrition. We now have the smallest police force in modern history. In theory the budgeted money for salaries should be in the budget. Since we have the smallest police force in modern history, where is the money??? Why has the police department had a hiring freeze for 2 years, and our Mayor just vetoed the bill to provide for recruiting and hiring of new police. -Where is the audit of Frank Straub.

3) Frank Straub personally signed a contract without Corporation Counsel approval for his "Regional Operations Center" that prima facie stinks of dirty politics. Why was he allowed to do that? Why didn't the building meet fire codes? Why did the city pay to have firemen sit in the building to provide "fire watch"??? What about the unusual arrangements to pave that parking lot? Something smells like politics or organized crime....perhaps an audit would track the players. Who paid who and what were their relationships? Where is the audit of what Frank Straub did??? We need to have the paper trail investigated by a forensic auditor.

4) It would appear that the Mayor who campaigned on "Public Safety is Job #1" may not have been so sincere....paying $6 for a cricket field that the people of Indianapolis do not want has a foul odor to it. How many police officers salaries could that pay for?

5) Violent criminals are out among us, terrorizing us. The man who shot 9 people only about 2 years ago is out of prison and the subject of a police chase, and guns were found to be in the car. I bet he's laughing pretty good at Ballard's credo about public safety being job #1. It seems to me that shooting 9 people is worth about 20 years per person shot in the prison. That guy should be in prison for the rest of his life, but for either a liberal prosecutor or a soft judge...or both.

Bottom line: Before you hike our taxes and eliminate our homestead exemptions, a forensic audit of what Frank Straub did with the money is mandatory!

Pete Boggs said...

It's rumored these "stewards" of public trust meet every morning, for Breakfast At Tifs.