In a recent editorial, this newspaper speculated that the removal of the property tax freeze might be a political dirty trick.
In an effort to move us from a dependence on property tax to an income tax, in 2007 the legislature put in place a mandate by freezing the property tax levy of any county that did not have a county income tax. Lake County refused to adopt such a tax, and as a result we have seen a dramatic reduction in the size of government while most services appear unaffected.
I never understood the wisdom of compelling a tax of any kind. In 2008, as president of the Schererville Town Council, I began visiting the Statehouse proposing alternatives to the freeze. A growing community spreads the cost of service over a growing tax base, but the freeze prevents the ability to fund growth. This was more than a penalty; it prevented economic development at a time when our community desperately needed it.
Last week, Rick Niemeyer and I were accused of inaction on this subject even though we had been in the Legislature for only 14 weeks, while our Democrat colleagues had all been there since 2007. In just 14 weeks we were able to convince the House to change course on this subject, arguing that we should not be compelling any government unit to impose a tax. Curiously, it was the Republicans voting to remove the freeze and the Democrats voting against.
I remain active in the fight against proposals that will damage our economic growth, such as the Senate amendment to the House budget bill requiring a wheel tax in order to access road funding. The road funds are taxpayer dollars, and the Legislature has no right to withhold our money – any more than the property tax freeze. I will work these remaining two weeks to remove this restriction and keep the Legislature out of the penalty business.
Nobody could have coordinated the series of events that came together last week, including the bill where we added the tax freeze amendment to legislation that offers many other positive benefits for Northwest Indiana.
As a rule, I believe we are taxed enough and government should strive to live with existing resources. The county tax will raise revenue at the expense of those who can afford it least. Homeowners subject to the property tax cap will receive no further property tax relief.
Lake County is now free to make a decision on taxes without being compelled by the state. I encourage you to exercise your new-found liberty and let your county officials know where you stand on another tax. I will continue to represent our community at the Statehouse and fight for good public policy.