State lawmakers hope to head off in-house county legal fight

2012-12-14T14:17:00Z 2012-12-15T19:07:07Z State lawmakers hope to head off in-house county legal fightBob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345 nwitimes.com
December 14, 2012 2:17 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | A bipartisan group of state lawmakers announced Friday it is drafting emergency legislation that should bring an end to the dispute at the county level over the handling of local income tax revenue.

The lawmakers said they are correcting language in the law that led some to believe county councils have the right to break with tradition and spend local income tax revenue without the support of the county commissioners.

"The purpose of the bill is to reaffirm the principle of checks and balances at the local level," said state Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso.

"By eliminating the vagueness of the code, we hope this new language will clarify the intent of the original piece of legislation," he said.

State Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, said the proposed change, which would take effect as soon as April if approved, will affirm the original intention of the law and bring an end to the dispute without the county officials following through on threats of taking the issue to court.

"We don't need our taxpayers paying for both sides of a lawsuit," he said.

Porter County Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st, who is among those who feel the council has exclusive power to transfer the revenue, has said the issue boils down to a belief that the council, as the county's fiscal body, should manage all tax dollars.

Tammy White, county office supervisor at the Indiana State Board of Accounts, has acknowledged that a recent change in the law made it unclear which local board has the transfer authority in question.

The interpretation is up to the county attorney, she said. But White said the rest of the state law on this subject supports the county's current approach of the commissioners proposing a use for the income tax revenue and then the council voting it up or down.

Porter County Attorney Betty Knight, who works for the commissioners, said earlier this month she does not believe the council has the right to break with tradition and spend the revenue without the support of the commissioners.

Other lawmakers reportedly supporting the proposed change are state Rep. Chuck Moseley, D-Portage, and state Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes.

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