Thursday, November 01, 2012

Marion County GOP Chairman Calls Homestead Tax Credit "Wasteful Taxpayer Subsidy"

Would someone please wake up me up and tell me this a just a bad nightmare? I just received an e-mail from the Marion County Republican Chairman Kyle Walker discussing the budget battle between Mayor Greg Ballard and the Democratic-controlled City-County Council. The e-mail accused Democrats of "playing politics with public safety" because they adopted a budget that assesses a $15 million payment-in-lieu of taxes on the Capital Improvement Board to help fund a new class of police and fire recruits. Despite campaigning on a promise of making public safety job one, Mayor Ballard has cut the number of police officers patrolling city streets by more than 300, even though he came into office with the benefit of a 65% increase in the local income tax, which was passed by a prior Democratic-controlled council and signed into law by former Mayor Bart Peterson. As a candidate, Ballard railed against that tax increase, as well as skyrocketing property taxes. He rode a wave of taxpayer discontent to upset the well-funded incumbent mayor on a shoe-string budget.

Laying all that aside, Mayor Ballard proposed raising property taxes on mostly middle-income homeowners by $9 million to close a budget gap in the budget that he submitted to the council, which the council rejected. Ballard's budget provided no funding for new police and fire recruit classes and robbed the TIF funds to balance his budget on paper. The CIB, despite claiming insolvency three years ago, is sitting on $67 million in cash reserves after a bailout package backed by Mayor Ballard became law that raised hotel taxes as a condition to receiving new subsidies payable from state sales tax revenues. No sooner had the bailout package been passed than the CIB announced it was awarding a $33.5 million subsidy to billionaire Herb Simon's Indiana Pacers, which claimed without substantiation that its NBA franchise was losing money. The CIB was also allowed to tap downtown TIF funds derived from property tax revenues to subsidize the operations of the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association. No budget action taken by Mayor Ballard during the past five years has evidenced any support for his campaign slogan that public safety was job one. Making sure that the CIB is flush with cash to subsidize the billionaire sports team owners and the downtown convention business has taken a priority over every other public expenditure under Ballard's leadership.

Now, if that isn't enough to turn your stomach, wait until you see what Chairman Walker had to say about the homestead property tax credit that Mayor Ballard and the Republican-controlled council is hell bent on eliminating. "Council Democrats refused to eliminate an antiquated, wasteful tax subsidy that costs taxpayers $9 million per year--money that was budgeted for public safety," Walker said. A property tax break for middle-income homeowners is "an antiquated, wasteful tax subsidy that costs taxpayer $9 million per year?" What does that make the $33.5 million subsidy the Mayor supported giving to billionaire Herb Simon's Indiana Pacers? Or what about the $6.5 million that Mayor Ballard gave to his favorite pay-to-play city contractor, Ersal Ozdemir, to construct a parking garage in Broad Ripple that he alone will own and from which he will receive all of the income? The audacity to equate a tax increase on ordinary taxpayers to a "wasteful tax subsidy" is simply beyond reproach and exhibits a hostility towards the taxpayers that I would never have dreamed I would live to see coming from the mouth of a Republican leader. As a life-long Republican, I am shocked and dismayed by the utter contempt this administration and this county leadership have towards taxpayers. What they are telling me is that they are less concerned about the tax burden of ordinary taxpayers than their concern for having money to give away to the billionaire sports team owners who lavish them with campaign contributions and free tickets to sporting events.

To hear Walker describe it, the Democratic-passed budget that takes $15 million away from the CIB to fund public safety is "robbing Peter to pay Paul." No, Kyle, it's more like robbing Joe Sixpack to pay Herb Simon. You and Mayor Ballard want to raise taxes on working families by eliminating the homestead property tax credit and leaving the money in the hands of the cash-flush CIB. Mayor Ballard's claim that the Democratic-passed budget created a $35 million structural budget gap is no more true than the budget gap that exists under his proposed budget. As with all of his recent budgets, Mayor Ballard arrives at a balanced budget only by a series of fund transfers, delayed payments and other tried and true budget-balancing gimmicks. In a mean-spirited, partisan move, Mayor Ballard eliminated $35 million in critical funding for county agencies run by the opposing party through the use of his line-item veto, including the prosecutor's office, the sheriff's department, the assessor's office, the auditor's office and even the court system, while leaving city agencies under his office, including his own staff budget that provided double-digit pay raises for more than a dozen people of his staff untouched. Delivering a second middle finger directed at the council, the Mayor eliminated funding for a line item that funds the council's outside legal counsel and its financial adviser. Governance by blackmail is the only way to describe the Mayor's actions. He would risk putting crucial government agencies in the ditch in order to get the tens of millions of dollars that he has promised Herb Simon in consideration for all of the campaign contributions and gifts he's lavished on him. It's government at its worst.

Watching the Republicans on the council defend this corrupt Mayor's actions and vote against over-riding his overreaching at tonight's council meeting has never made me more ashamed to call myself a Republican. Not only did the Republicans vote in lockstep against the budget overrides, they even voted against overriding the veto of an ordinance that would have outlawed the practice of the city to issue multiple parking ticket violations at $20 a pop on the same day for a single violation.

1 comment:

patriot paul said...

I won't go as far as to say 'corrupt', but for a Republican vampire to suggest eliminating a local homestead credit by sucking further money from residents is not only callous but defies the economic state of residents to keep every penny they have left. The RINO-Republicans should not be thinking of ways to bleed $ from their constituents when they should be creating ways to better spend the $ they already have stored in their blood bank.