INDIANAPOLIS | If some day Griffith succeeds in separating from Calumet Township, no one can say state Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, didn't try to stop it from happening.
For nearly 90 minutes Tuesday, and long after most of the 49 other senators lost interest, Rogers repeatedly suggested changes to House Bill 1585 to give advantage to Calumet Township in its long-running spending dispute with Griffith, whose residents pay huge property tax bills to support township poor relief but get relatively little for their money.
Rogers' proposed amendments would have barred Griffith from leaving the township, given the township additional years to get its finances in order, prevented a state takeover of the township and exempted a large pot of township spending from financial controls.
Each proposal was defeated on a nearly party-line vote as the Senate Republican majority agreed with the legislation's sponsor, state Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, that it's long past time for Calumet Township spending to fall in line with other Indiana townships.
The Senate could vote as soon as Thursday on final passage of the legislation, which gives Calumet Township one year to reduce its township assistance tax rate for poor relief spending to no more than 12 times the state average.
Calumet Township's current township assistance tax rate is 22.62 times the state average, and the township spends $2.32 on administration to distribute each dollar of poor relief, Hershman said.
The next-highest township assistance tax rate is just eight times the state average.
If Calumet Township fails to reduce its tax rate by 2014, the legislation requires the Indiana Distressed Unit Appeals board to consider appointing an emergency manager with broad powers to reduce township spending.
Should that fail to bring the township assistance tax rate below 12 times the state average, Griffith residents then could hold a referendum as soon as 2015 on whether to leave Calumet Township and join another.
Rogers told senators that letting Griffith "secede" from Calumet Township, which also includes portions of Gary, Lake Station and unincorporated Lake County, would set a dangerous precedent that could put all Indiana political boundaries at risk.
Hershman said that's why it's a "last resort" to resolve excessive township spending that's been "persistent and significant."