INDIANAPOLIS – Mayors from across Indiana are gearing up for a fight to protect a state business tax that produces nearly $1 billion in annual revenue for local governments, libraries and schools.
Republican leaders in the Statehouse say getting rid of the business personal property tax would lure manufacturers and other big job-creators to the state. But a chorus of mayors say the loss of revenue would hit communities already struggling with the impact of state-imposed property tax caps.
“We’re still discovering the consequences of the tax caps, and now they want to throw another disaster at us,” said Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman. Goshen and other local governments units in Elkhart County would lose more than $7.5 million a year in revenue if the tax was repealed.
“It’s a crazy idea,” said Batesville Mayor Richard Fledderman, who lives in a small rural county that would lose more than $560,000 in tax revenue. “I find it hard to believe that they would even consider doing this, with the impact that tax caps have already had on communities.”
Indiana companies pay nearly $1 billion a year to local governments, including school and library districts, through a tax on machinery, computers, furniture and other equipment.
A bipartisan group of mayors, meeting in Indianapolis Wednesday to talk about their legislative priorities for the next session, were vehement in their opposition to a proposal to eliminate the tax that’s been identified as a top priority for GOP leaders who control the Statehouse.
Since the General Assembly passed legislation in 2008 capping local property taxes, Indiana’s cities and towns have lost about $250 million annually in revenue. Many communities have cut services in response.
The word “crazy” was used by several mayors at the meeting to describe their sentiment about the tax cut proposal, which has strong backing from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. While no bill has been drafted yet, legislation is expected to be filed early in the 2014 session.
A study last year for the Regional Chamber of Commerce of Northeast Indiana found that eliminating the tax would impact almost all Indiana communities but would cause significant stress in those with large manufacturing bases. In Whiting, for example, where the BP oil refinery is located, 60 percent of the city’s revenue stream comes from the business personal property tax.
Both the Association of Indiana Counties and the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns have come out against the wholesale repeal of the tax unless there is replacement revenue, saying it would force local communities to further cut services. They also worry about impact of the tax repeal on homeowners and other property owners. Purdue University economist Larry DeBoer estimates that property owners across Indiana would see an automatic increase of more than $450 million in property taxes, because of the way Indiana’s complicated property tax cap system works.
“This is a bigger issue than the property tax caps, from the financial impact on local communities,” said IACT executive director Matt Greller.
Rep. Tim Brown, the Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said Wednesday that he supports the concept of eliminating the business personal property tax as “an economic incentive” for businesses to invest in the state. He cited the recent drop in the state’s unemployment rate to 7.5 percent, the lowest it’s been since late 2008.
“We’re just crawling toward reducing the unemployment rate, so we want to see more economic activity,” Brown said. “We know business personal property tax affects that.”
But Brown also acknowledged the concerns of local communities over the lost revenues. “We’re looking at options for them,” Brown said.
It’s not clear what those are. One idea being floated is to allow communities to raise their local option income tax. That idea prompted groans from mayors gathered at Wednesday’s meeting, who fear they’ll be blamed for raising taxes while legislators take credit for cutting them.
Republican legislative leaders who support repealing the business personal property tax point to surrounding states that have already eliminated it, and argue that Indiana needs to do the same to stay competitive. But at the mayors’ meeting, Greller pointed out that those states replaced the lost revenues to local communities.
Senate President David Long, a Fort Wayne Republican whose city would lose $9 million a year if the tax is repealed, said the state can’t afford to replace the lost revenues.
State Sen. Luke Kenley, the powerful chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told mayors the same thing. “Oh no, the state can’t do it,” he said.
Kenley voiced skepticism about the proposed tax repeal at Wednesday’s meeting of mayors, after someone mentioned the proposal to him. “I’m with you guys on that,” he said.
Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at email@example.com, or follow her on Twitter, @MaureenHayden
Ruth E. Oldham, 88
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RMH holiday extravaganza
Rush Memorial Hospital is sponsoring their annual Holiday Extravaganza One Stop Shop and Bake Sale today.
The event is held in the Kenneth Earnest Conference Center on the ground floor of the Medical Office Building at Rush Memorial.
The public is invited to come and browse many vendors and a spectacular silent auction. Doors open at 10 a.m. with final bidding for the silent auction ending at 2 p.m. At 7 p.m., the hospital will host the second annual Lights of Love Community Christmas Tree Lighting.
Meet at the13th Street entrance of the hospital for caroling, refreshments, and lighting the tree. Bring the entire family. Every child in will receive a new book to take home with them.
Drainage Board special meeting
The Wm. Springer Open Drain Drainage Board will have a special meeting at 8:30 a.m. Monday in the Rush County Surveyor’s office. The purpose for this meeting is to set a date to receive bids for the maintenance project on this drain.
Not-for-profits may submit upcoming events to firstname.lastname@example.org or 126 S. Main St., Rushville, IN 46173.
• RCP’s annual ‘kids only’ show Christmas in the Land of Oz at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6, and Saturday, Dec. 7 and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8., at the Root Building at the 4-H Rush County Fairgrounds. Admission: $10 per adult, $5 per student. Discounted tickets are available through membership levels and the membership drive is currently underway.
• Elementary School age student dance from 6-8 p.m. at the Boys and Girls Club of Rush County. $3 per person. D.J. Kevin Green. Proceeds benefit the Boys and Girls Club.
• Community Bingo at Miller’s Merry Manor on the first Friday of each month at 2 p.m. Free and open to the public! Join us for an hour of fun and a chance to win prizes! Please call 765-932-4127 with any questions.
• St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 426 N. Morgan St., Rushville, will host Women of Faith Christmas on Dec. 6. Refreshments will be at 7 p.m. with the program at 8 p.m. The evening will feather Max Lucado, Sheila Walsh, Lisa Harper and musical guest Francesca Battistelli. Tickets are $5 (advance ticket sales only - limited seating). Please bring a non-perishable food item for the food pantry (RCCA). Proceeds from the event will benefit RCCA. For information on tickets, contact St. Paul’s UMC at 765-932-3777.
• The Boys & Girls Club of Rush County will host a dance from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 6. The dance is for elementary school students only and the cost is $3. DJ Kevin Green will provide the entertainment with proceeds going to benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Rush County.
• Knights of Columbus Chicken Fry from 5 to 8 p.m. Adults $10 and children $6. Carryouts available. Menu includes: Chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, rolls, applesauce and cake. All white meat $1 extra. Open to the public. Information: 932-2277.
• A holiday fair will be held from 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Dec. 7 in the RCHS cafeteria. Admission is $1 per child (adults free). There will be 13 craft and game booths including the Snack Track (cake walk), bean bag toss, face painting and North Pole fishing. Santa will be there too. The RCHS Jazz Band will provide holiday music. The holiday fair is sponsored by the FCA.
• Walnut Ridge Friends, Carthage, is pleased to host its annual Christmas Bazaar from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Ercell Beaver Community Center, Carthage. “Sweet Shop” with homemade cookies and candy by the pound; homemade arts and crafts, jams and jellies, and assorted gifts and Christmas decor. Lunch served 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. features BOJO’s pulled pork BBQ and sides. Santa arrives by horse-drawn wagon at 11 a.m. Kids are invited to talk with Santa and adults to take your own photos.
• The Rushville Consolidated High School Choral Department will present their Winter Concert at 7:30 p.m. at the Laughlin Center for the Performing Arts on the RCHS campus featuring all choirs.
• Rushville Church of Christ, 627 W 11th Street, Rushville, invites all to attend a special journey to first century Bethlehem from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. nightly Dec. 13 and14. Come experience a live and interactive outdoor nativity, where we turn our parking lot into the town of Bethlehem as it may have been the night Jesus was born, giving our guests a true experience of that night.
• Rush County Chorale performances Dec. 14 and Dec. 15 at Center Christian Church and the Rushville Presbyterian Church. No ticket sales. Details to be announced.
• The Rushville Eagle’s will host a Breakfast with Santa from 7 to 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 14. Santa will be in attendance from 8 to 10 a.m. Public is invited with a free will donation being collected. In town deliveries available by calling 765-309-5984.
• Rush County Schools Christmas Break begins. Students return to school on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014.
• Raleigh Community Club Dance, 7:30-10:30 p.m., weekly on Saturdays. Live band. Open to all ages.
• Tox-away Days are the first Saturday of each month from 8 a.m. to noon at Smiley Avenue. Join in making this a Clean, Green Rush County.
• The community food pantry, 109 East Third Street, Rushville is open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday. Bring photo ID. Donations welcomed.
• In cooperation with the Rush County Food Pantry (RCCA), the Gleaners Mobile Food Bank will be bringing a truck load of food to the Main Street Christian Church parking lot, 615 N. Main St., Rushville, on the first Monday of each month for distribution to local residents. The distribution will be made between 4 and 6 p.m. Residents will need to bring their own containers (sacks or boxes) to put their food into.
• Alcoholics Anonymous meets each Tuesday evening at 7:30 p.m. at the Hoosier Gym in Knightstown. Use the east entrance at the corner of Adams and Locust streets. Information: 765-313-1637.
• Diabetes education classes are held from 5 to 7 p.m. on the first, second, and third Tuesday of each month at Rush Memorial Hospital Skills Lab, second floor. Cost, $10 per class with a $25 refund if all three classes are attended. Info: 765-932-7416 or email@example.com
• Partners for a Healthy Rush County meets at 6 p.m. the first Tuesday of each month at the Boys & Girls Club. Open to all interested businesses, organizations or individuals in Rush County.
• AA and Al-Anon meet at 7:30 p.m. Mondays at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church.
• Crossroads Serenity Group, an Al-Anon group, meets from 6 to 7 p.m. every Monday at 333 N. Main Street, Rushville. Information: Gail at 317-642-9112 or Larry at 765-277-9477.
• Veterans, if you have an appointment at the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis call (765) 932-3075, seven to 10 days in advance, to arrange a ride in the DAV van. Veterans who need a ride sooner call (765) 561-5445 or (765) 932-2703.
• Rush County Victims Assistance, Inc., monthly meeting on the third Monday of each month at 6 p.m. For location contact the office at 938-1555. The public always is invited. Info: Barbara Kuhn at 938-1555.