"The Official Portrait of Miss InDiana"

"The Official Portrait of Miss InDiana"
aka "Miss Victory"

Friday, December 7, 2007

Property tax foes join forces Alliance will lobby legislators not just to cut levy but repeal it

This is two week old news, but we wanted to revisit it . HFFT editor

The Courier-Journal
By Lesley Stedman Weidenbener
INDIANAPOLIS -- Anti-property-tax groups from around Indiana are joining forces to try to persuade lawmakers to consider not just a reduction in the unpopular levy but a complete repeal.

John Price, a lawyer who represented taxpayers in a lawsuit claiming the property-tax system was unconstitutional, said yesterday that the legislative tax debate is missing a serious discussion of the elimination of property taxes, despite the idea's popularity.

That's why 10 taxpayer groups have decided to create the Indiana Property Tax Repeal Alliance. Price, the alliance's chairman, said many of the members helped Republican Greg Ballard win the mayor's race in Indianapolis, where property taxes emerged as a key issue.
"The purpose of the alliance is to ensure the taxpayers who were heard in this election very soundly will be heard in this chamber and the chamber across the hall," Price said, standing in front of the Indiana House.

The alliance is demanding House and Senate floor votes on legislation that would eliminate property taxes. That could take the form of a proposed constitutional amendment, which would require approval by two separately elected legislatures and approval by voters in a referendum.
Price said he expects three or four more organizations -- including Interested Citizens of Floyd and Clark Counties -- to join the alliance. He referred questions about the local group to New Albany attorney Charles Murphy, who did not return a message left at his office.

The current member groups represent Marion, Lake, Marshall, Fulton, Vanderburgh, Delaware, St. Joseph and DeKalb counties.

Members of the alliance said yesterday that voters would welcome a referendum on property taxes.

Mmoja Ajabu, a Marion County member, said the issue can be boiled down to a simple question: "Will government be of the people or will it be a government that preys on the people?"

Many of the groups had been named as plaintiffs in Price's lawsuit claiming the property-tax system is unconstitutional. But earlier this month, Indiana Tax Court Judge Thomas Fisher dismissed the case, saying his court did not have jurisdiction because the taxpayers have not exhausted administrative challenges of property taxes.

The court can only consider appeals of tax decisions made by the Indiana Department of Revenue and the Indiana Board of Tax Review, the judge said.

In his opinion, however, Fisher noted "the public's discontent with the purported inadequacies of Indiana's property assessment and taxation system."

Gov. Mitch Daniels and a legislative committee chaired by Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, have developed proposals that would cut homeowners' property taxes by at least one-third and as much as half.

They have balked at going further, saying it would cause problems for construction bonds and would require sales and income taxes to be increased too much to make up the lost revenue.
In a public address last month, Daniels said he considered a property-tax elimination, but dismissed the idea.

"Much as I would like to have taken that route, the risks to our schools, to small business, and to our economy generally dissuaded me," he said. "In particular, I could not support the large increase in personal income taxes, paid by every Hoosier worker and most small businesses, which would be necessary for total elimination."

But members of the alliance said yesterday that's not good enough.

Jim Premeske of Hammond said it's time Hoosiers demanded that their state and local officials listen to their concerns. "Let the revolution begin," he said.

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