Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Ballard Reaffirms Support For Property Tax Repeal

As those of you who read this blog daily know, I've been critical of Mayor-elect Greg Ballard for what I perceived was a retreat on his part from support of an outright repeal of the property tax as advocated by the thousands of tax protesters who rallied to support his upset victory in this year's mayoral election. I'm delighted to report that he has clarified this public position on this important issue to disabuse people of a perception he left in an earlier interview with the Star that he no longer supported repealing the property tax. Here's how Ballard explained his position to WTHR's Kevin Rader:

"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.


Anonymous said...

Oh, so now he's a good guy again, huh? He never changed his mind; you just inferred he did from one thing he said in the media. You need to stop jumping on everything the man says. Just because he says he's for one thing doesn't mean he's against something else. That seems to be all you're criticizing him for since he got elected. Give the man a chance to make good on what he said, for heaven's sake.

Gary R. Welsh said...

That may be how you see it, anon 7:02, but I think I'm just trying to keep him honest. He told me himself that's what he liked about me. My father taught me to listen and learn from people's criticisms of you rather than simply getting mad. It goes both ways. I put my thoughts in writing with my name attached to them and accept the consequences. I don't do as people like you do who are more than willing to sting people with your comments as long as you can remain anonymous, the way of a typical, back-stabbing political insider.

indyernie said...

Gary I don't think Ballard will disappoint us. We may not like everything he does but in the end he will do what he thinks is best for Indianapolis. I have a good feeling about this man, a feeling of trust. I never had a feeling of trust from Mayor Peterson.

Anonymous said...

Here's the problem with all this demagogery...

The mechanisms that put property taxes in place, or repeal or cap them, are outside the purview of the Mayor. He can use his bully pulpit, but, there is a strong anti-Indianapolis bias in that nuthouse called the General Assembly.

How much clout do you think a newly-elected Republican Mayor will have in the Democratic House? Or, for that matter, in the Republican Senate, where Robert Garton was the major domo for way too long? The whole place needs a thorough flushing every couple of years, and we're overdue.

Get back to me after sine die on that.

The bruhaha during the last mayoral campaign about PROPERTY taxes was and is a paper tiger.

The bruhaha about spending controls is real and important.

The bruhaha about the COIT is real and important.

I'm wagering that fewer than 5% of the voters know that fact.

Anonymous said...

flipflop flip flop flip flop

Who knows what his position tomorrow will be?

garyj said...

flipflop flip flop flip flop
Who knows what his position tomorrow will be?

Hi, Wilson!! I was wondering when you would stop by!

Buzzcut said...

Advance, why would you trust these people to "fix" the property tax problem?

They created the problem in the first place!

1) they repealed the inventory tax

2) they instituted trending, which has transferred the tax burden from commercial to residential taxpayers.

3) they underfunded the homestead and PTRC.

This "reform" is just more of the same.

BTW, anyone who wants to do away with property taxes is ignorant and does not understand how government works. Property taxes are the best, most fair taxes around. They're clear, understandable, and transparent. They're raised locally, for local spending.

Income and sales taxes are opaque (how much of your income do you pay in sales taxes? Where does the money go?) They're not clear at all (what is adjusted gross income anyway?) You don't get a detailed bill with your sales tax telling you where your money went, unlike your property tax bill.

I think that we should go in the exact opposite direction. Lower the sales tax back to 5%. Get rid of the homstead and PTRC. Keep the cap at 2%, which will limit how much you pay in property taxes. And then let the municipal chips fall where they may.

On my blog, I have posts relating to how much Lake County municipalities spend in excess of the 2% cap. It's frightening. My plan would bankrupt Gary, East Chicago, Hammond, and maybe Whiting. Maybe a couple of other towns, too.

Wilson46201 said...

GaryW knows that wasn't me - but it did express my sentiments rather verbosely. For me just a simple

F L I P - F L O P ! ! !

would be sufficient...

Anonymous said...

I agree with 7:02, Gary. Since the election, you've become shrill and unreasonable, and you continually make excuses about being "a free thinker" etc. And you have hardly tried to learn from the criticism. You're clearly very defensive about it. One of the things about Andrew Sullivan is that he claims to learn as much from his readers as he teaches them. You could do with a bit of that humility. And, the fact that you were simply, clearly off-base in your premature criticism of Ballard is proof positive that you need to be more prudent.

Gary R. Welsh said...

anon 10:23, once again having all the courage to speak his mind as an anonymous commenter. Put your name to your words instead of posting like a gutless coward. Using the Andrew Sullivan example provides too good of a clue to your identity. Would you like me to name you?

Anonymous said...

He can use his bully pulpit, but, there is a strong anti-Indianapolis bias in that nuthouse called the General Assembly.

Good. Then those idiots can do nothing and Indianapolis _will_ turn into the ghetto. All those folks who lived in the heavy hit areas for decades will sell their homes at 65% of what the government says they are worth. Even with that much of a cut, they will still double or triple what they paid years ago. They will move to the suburbs and maybe even be able to bank $50-$100K. Then those left stuck in the area will then file lawsuits when the government refuses to lower their assessed value. We will have factual proof that values have now decreased 30-40% thanks to the retiree flight to the burbs. After these folks win, taxes will go up for even more people, hitting the upper middle class. Then folks in homes worth about $200K will follow the same path as those in MK, BT, Broad Ripple, etc.. Eventually you will have "The Ruins of Indianapolis" which will look exactly like "The Ruins of Detroit." The the elected anti-Indy hacks can wear their Kevlar while in the city.

Anonymous said...

I am in the scintilla of a minority here... but I'm with buzzcut.

Trading property taxes for sales tax is a RAW deal for most of us. Property taxes are deductible on my income tax returns- both state and federal. Every dollar I pay in property taxes is only really about 70 cents! Every dollar I pay in sales tax is a dollar. If my sales taxes go up so my property taxes go down, my income taxes go up too!

I would trade property taxes for state income taxes (also deductible on the federal return, where most of the benefit is), but then what about the state income tax reduction for property taxes? That goes away? There is no need to further complicate the total mess, but what IS the plan for all this? The state cannot grant a federal deduction for property taxes.

Anonymous said...

It's easy for Ballard to support total repeal since he has absolutely no power either way in the matter.
Total repeal AND the 1% cap are both disasters waiting to happen.