April Fools!

Today I bring you a guest editorial from Fred McCarthy from Indy Tax Dollars

April Fool
If it happened more frequently, one might wonder whether citizens of Indianapolis and Indiana were being taken for fools intentionally – and successfully.A member of the Capital Improvement Board (CIB) projected that the city would “…make $1.39 million annually from the Colts move.” That guesswork was announced 24 years ago, appearing in the local daily paper on April 1, 1984. We’ll never know whether the date was coincidental or intentional. But the “guesstimate” was certainly a huge – and very expensive – joke on the taxpayers.

The governor has just signed HB1001, alleged to be widespread, permanent property tax relief for all Indiana taxpayers. We found it intriguing that, of some 600 pages of material which include a wide variety of “protections” for the taxpayer, the first phase to take effect will be a 16% increase in the state sales tax. (Don’t want our spenders to worry about funds, do we?) And guess what! The increase in the sales tax becomes effective on April 1, 2008.

We have asked before and we will ask again. If one considers a “cap” to be a permanent, inflexible limit on something, how does one reach that point by calling a percentage of a variable figure a “cap?” Assessments can change every year, and the individual taxpayers who think this legislation will give them permanent relief from property tax increases are living in a dream world. With or without professional assessors – if and when we get them – politicians will play games with assessments.

Our efforts to get a copy off the Internet of Senate Joint Resolution 1 – the constitutional amendment which will place the alleged “caps” in the state constitution – have been unsuccessful so far. Having not seen it, we are curious about the wording of the proposed approach. The publicly stated effort would “cap” residential property (that lived in by the owner?) at 1%, rental and farm property at 2%, and all other – business – at 3% of the assessed value.

We suppose they have covered this, but we do wonder about definitions. If a man owns ten single family residences from which he derives his total income, are those properties “rental” or “business?” Is a ten-story apartment building “rental” or “business” property? If a suburban area homestead contains, as a sideline, a profit-making horse boarding stable while the owner goes downtown to work every day, is that a “business?” Why is a “farm” producing corn and soy beans for sale on the local market not a “business?”

The effect on business generally has disastrous possibilities. There are few “red flags” more significant to a business looking to relocate than the fact that the governmental unit involved can hang a legally sanctioned higher price tag on it than on surrounding properties. And if the residential property owner (read, voter) will have to eye the assessment program carefully, just think what the potential is for game-playing with commercial buildings and industrial plants.

We are seriously concerned that the whole situation might be an intentional scam. The sales tax increase will be in effect and will stand, no matter what. In self defense the business community may find itself paired with the spenders and the likes of the Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) in an effort to defeat or to change the proposed constitutional amendment. (An amendment must pass, in identical form, two separately elected legislatures.) The ISTA already has pretty effectively neutered the referendum provisions originally offered, and it is against “caps” because it wants no limits, no how, no way, on revenues to which it is “entitled.”

We fear that HB1001 could turn out to be the most successful – and most damaging – April Fool trick ever pulled off in the state of Indiana.

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6 Responses to “April Fools!”

  1. Andy Horning Says:

    Excellent. Bravo.

  2. Mike Lowry Says:

    Mr. Morgan,

    What would you do differntly should you be elected to office? what is your experience in legislation and how would you go about accomplishing your objective? What are your objectives?

  3. kenmorgan Says:

    Hello Mr. Lowry

    Glad you asked.

    1. I want to create a plan for the gradual elimination of property tax. That is not something I can do alone. Part of the problem with the legislation that got us in this mess and the legislation just passed is that it was uninformed. The legislative process in Indiana is haphazard and often irrational. We need a better process for making laws. Which leads to the next issue.

    2. We need to bring what is variously called deliberative democracy or citizen-centered democracy to Indiana. It’s a process that gives ordinary citizens as much access to policy making as is now given to lobbyists.

    3. We also need a clean-elections law.

    You can find out more about all of these proposals at the regular web site address: http://www.votekenmorgan.com

  4. Mike Lowry Says:

    I want to create a plan for the gradual elimination of property tax. That is not something I can do alone. Part of the problem with the legislation that got us in this mess and the legislation just passed is that it was uninformed. The legislative process in Indiana is haphazard and often irrational. We need a better process for making laws. Which leads to the next issue.
    —I understand you want to create a plan, does that mean you don’t necessarily have on yet? WHo is uninformed? The legislators? the public? How would you go about changing the process for making laws?

    We need to bring what is variously called deliberative democracy or citizen-centered democracy to Indiana. It’s a process that gives ordinary citizens as much access to policy making as is now given to lobbyists.
    —I am a citizen and i spent a lot of time at the statehouse during session and going to committe meetings. people can also go to the gov website and review any bill or resolution. It seems to me the public has all access. Am I missing something? Also, if every single person was to act and give input, I don’t believe anything would get done…too many cooks in the kitchen so to speak. Isn’t that why we elect legislators to represent us?
    Can you tell us how you would do a better job than Senator Teresa Lubbers? All issues…

    Thanks.

  5. Mike Lowry Says:

    Also, What means do you have for someone like me to help out if needed for your campaign?

  6. kenmorgan Says:

    Hi Mike
    You have more good questions that don’t have simple answers. So here goes:

    The legislature and the public remain uninformed because the lobbyists who have the most access to the legislature are the people most likely to benefit from a law. Often times, many of the people who will be most affected by the law may not know about it. Also, because of the secret negotiation process of house-senate compromises we often don’t know the real motives of the negotiators.

    There are other problems as well. I decided to run after witnessing a meeting of the Senate Rules committee. My experience may be revealing to you. I had not intended to go because I knew the outcome was already decided. But then I found out that folks were driving three hours in snowy weather to appear before Senator Long and his committee. I was ashamed to not attend. I went, and sure enough the committee had already met privately, “in caucus” as they call it and decided what they were going to do.

    Senator Long did not bother to take any testimony from these citizens who had driven so far and at such expense. Instead, Senator Long lectured them on the gravity of HIS responsibility. Then the committee voted, unanimously, to send the issue at hand to the graveyard of summer study, as I had anticipated. What rankled me was that Senator Long, and Teresa Lubbers, who was on the committee, did not have the courtesy of at least listening to the petition of these citizens.

    The main features of deliberative democracy are these:

    * It recruits a broad cross section of the public in order to assemble a “critical mass” of engaged citizens.
    * These citizens are involved in a combination of large- and small-group meetings where they become better informed, and meet directly with people of different viewpoints.
    * A wide range of policy options are discussed and compared.
    * Documents and web sites support this dialogue so that any interested citizen can follow the discussion and participate. Every comment is captured. All comments are aggregated as topics and a response is made to the issues raised.
    * Finally the citizens effect change in a number of ways. A consensus view frequently emerges. Government starts to react by changing its own behavior from within. Citizens form new relationships and start working together to solve problems, inspired by the experience.

    The legislature does not use any of these techniques. Kernan and Shepard danced around them but didn’t seem to understand how to actually collect and then adequately respond to public comment. They only offered a single solution to the perceived problem. I can’t even tell whether the problem is systemic or merely incidental.

    One good example is found in the requirements of National Environmental Policy Act. This requires, that before any major Federal action, an environmental impact statement must be written and a public process has to be done. That process has all the features listed above. I have seen it work and helped make it work across the country. Most recently, in Cincinnati, citizens helped the DOE devise a solution for the cleanup of nuclear waste. Their ideas resulted in a 4 billion dollar savings over what the politicians and bureaucrats had contemplated. More importantly they also came up with a better result.

    Of course, the vast majority of people don’t have the time or interest to be so involved. However, good technique allows anyone who wants to be involved to do so. People can choose to be involved at many levels of engagement. Further, a good process seeks out people who would not ordinarily be involved and makes it possible for them to do so. It is a little like a square dance. The first time you see a square dance or try to do it, it seem complicated, but once you have been through it a few times it’s easy.

    Finally, let me say that Senator Lubbers appears to be an honest and diligent person. So why would I be better?

    I would be better because I would approach the problem differently. I don’t see any evidence that she has had any experience with the techniques or approach I have described above. Twenty years of my experience has been in developing and applying techniques that help institutions and communities make wiser more informed decisions by involving the people most affected by those decisions. I don’t have the answers to all the issues that beset our society. What I do have is a better way to find the answers. Finding those answers is not something any one of us can do. It’s a group process.

    If you would like to know more or you would like to help on the campaign call me at 260-1828. You can also email me. If you do want to email use the link on the contact page http://www.votekenmorgan.com/contact.html

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