Monday, August 20, 2007

Indy is Boiling, but it's not the Heat.

I think sometimes we get so caught up in 24 hour national news on cable and the internet, that we neglect our local political climate, to our detriment. The citizens of Indiana, in particularly Indianapolis, have been rudely awakened to that in recent months.

Under the administration of Democrat Bart Peterson the last seven years, Indianapolis' debt has soared, crime has soared, and taxes have soared. What else has happened? Oh, yeah, the Colts won the Super Bowl, providing another welcome distraction for an inept administration.

The match to the gas leak, however, was the arrival of property tax bills for the first half of 2007. Rates increased all over the state, and Marion County (Indianapolis) was particularly hard hit. Many folks in the Center Township saw their bills increase by astronomical amounts, as much as 200-300%. Many of these people are retirees and poor minorities on fixed incomes, and now they are faced with tax bills for thousands of dollars. Immediately local officials started pointing the finger at anyone but themselves. They continue to do so, even after the Governor stepped in and ordered re-assessments in some counties and decreed that taxes would be collected at 2006 rates.

Only 1% of property tax revenue goes to the state. The rest goes to local government for services like schools and libraries and such. Local government spending is the chief cause of the rate increase, combined with the General Assembly's unwillingness to reform the tax system. The reason local spending is out of control is that there is no one authority with power to tax in each county; there are several boards in local government, all with the ability to tax the public. This needs to change. Yet in Indy, spend-spend-spend is the order of the day.

I am not in favor of massive government consolidation. I think townships can better serve citizens than a single county government can, but there needs to be only one body in each county that has power to levy taxes and approve budget proposals for all other county entities.

I also am in favor of eliminating property taxes altogether. Property taxes amount to paying the government rent on real estate you are supposed to own. Our country was founded on the principles of liberty and protecting private property, and property taxes are an affront to both.

Mayor Peterson and the City-County council want to point the finger at the Governor (Republican Mitch Daniels), and ignore the real problem. They are dangerously ignoring their constituents as well, and in a local election year. Two weeks ago, the mayor unveiled his budget for next year to a Council chamber filled with city employees and Democratic cronies, while the voting public were forced to wait outside in the severe heat. This came after outrage when the Council voted, without any regard for proper parliamentary procedure (the debate was arbitrarily cut off by Council President Monroe Gray, also a Democrat), to increase local income taxes.

This fall, Indiana voters will have an opportunity to set right some of these wrongs by putting responsible leaders into local offices. Don't be too caught up in the never-ending presidential campaign. Learn about your local government and what its responsibilities are. Learn who the candidates are and where they stand on local issues. Local government is the cornerstone of our great Republic. Don't ignore it any longer.