Hardy few brave weather to hear legislators in Portage

2014-02-01T15:30:00Z 2014-02-01T22:47:17Z Hardy few brave weather to hear legislators in PortageBy Phil Wieland phil.wieland@nwi.com, (219) 548-4352 nwitimes.com

PORTAGE | Concerned he might not be able to drive on the snow-covered streets but wanting to hear what his legislators had to say, Jerald Balta hiked the 2 miles from his home to Portage City Hall Saturday.

Balta was one of four hardy residents to eventually show up for the town hall meeting with State Sen. Karen Tallian and State Rep. Charles "Chuck" Moseley.

The meeting almost wasn't held in the town hall. Tallian and Moseley were talking from their car to Balta and another resident next to city hall when a reporter asked if the meeting was still going to be held.

After learning City Hall doors were unlocked, Tallian said they would park the car and go ahead with it.

Most of the intimate session was spent talking about the bills to reduce the business personal property tax on inventory, which Gov. Mike Pence has made the biggest issue of the session. Tallian and Moseley said it appears legislators will eliminate it for businesses with less than $25,000 in assessed valuation.

The other part of the tax cut plan from Pence is the reduction of the corporate income tax to 4.9 percent from 6.5 percent. While Pence said it will encourage jobs, Tallian said the continued cuts in the tax are reaching the point of diminishing returns.

"Some day we are going to have to decide if we want police OR fire protection," she said. "Or schools are going to have to choose between programs or buses."

Moseley predicted the cuts will force the county to raise property taxes to the maximum allowed under the tax caps, and that still won't be enough. Also, schools and libraries don't have that option and will continue to struggle financially without a replacement source of revenue.

Balta asked if the legislators would support a federal constitutional convention to deal with the issue of campaign finances. Both agreed there's too much money in politics, but they didn't think a constitutional amendment would be the best way to deal with it.

"The convention would be ruled by big money," Tallian predicted. "Congress can and should fix it."

John Johnston asked about Tallian's efforts to decriminalize marijuana. Tallian said she can't get her bills heard in the Republican-controlled legislature. She said Ohio decriminalized it in the 1970s and that state hasn't turned into "Reefer Madness," referring to the film of the same name. Johnston, a Republican who has filed to run against Moseley, said he supported her stance.

Tallian and Moseley also had a town hall session in Chesterton.

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