INDIANAPOLIS | Porter County Auditor Bob Wichlinski would lose access to nearly all the money generated by his crackdown on homestead tax credit abusers under legislation approved by a House committee Thursday.
Senate Bill 494 was changed by the House Ways and Means Committee to set a $100,000 cap on the money a county auditor can keep from ferreting out unlawfully claimed tax credits.
Current state law permits the auditor to hold on to all the money generated when an illegal homestead credit is removed. Wichlinski's recent crackdown produced nearly $2 million for his office.
State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, who sought the change, said the auditor should not get the only say in how that money is spent.
He said any funds above $100,000 should go to the county council for it to decide how the money is used.
"There's a world of difference in having some money to go after malefactors and having $1.9 million," Soliday said. "All of us would like to have a slush fund, but I don't think a slush fund incentivizes folks to do what's right."
The legislation comes on the heels of the Porter County Council seizing $606,000 in tax credit abuse proceeds from Wichlinski's accounts this month and ordering Wichlinski to seek council permission to spend the money.
Wichlinski claimed that action was illegal and will prevent him from having the funds necessary to seek out more tax credit abusers.
However, should Soliday's proposal be approved by the full House, approved again by the Senate and signed by the governor, the council's action would likely comply with the new law.
The House Ways and Means Committee also approved a second Soliday amendment to Senate Bill 494, designating the Valparaiso City Council as the elected body required to approve the budget of the appointed board of Valparaiso Community Schools.
The Porter County Council has claimed only it has the authority to approve the school budget.