Tuesday, July 10
Is Indiana Ready for Self-Government?
ITEM: Indiana Governor Mitch "Hello Up There" Daniels wants to suspend state law to give homeowners socked by rapid property tax increases more time to pay (thank you, Guv'nor, and God bless). Daniels, whose muscular suction is at the center of the power vacuum responsible for the increases, has also not ruled out calling a special session of the State Legislature, which is like summoning The Human Torch to help you find a gas leak.
The Indianapolis Star meanwhile, traditionally the state's largest employer of free-range wingnuts, gave over the above-the-fold space in Sunday's Op-Ed section to a debate on the issue between the Republican who was the Speaker of the House when this mess was enacted, and the perennial leader of the Indiana Coalition to End Taxes on White People, whose keen nose has caught the odor of burning property tax resentment to the extent that he proposes raising other taxes as a solution. (Guess which one goes up the most? That's right, sales taxes! Did you peek ahead?) The former Speaker, now just House minority leader after the one chamber which fluctuates between Indiana's Republican and Republican-Democratic parties went back to the latter, blames House Democrats for their failure to fully reverse what total Republican control had wrought the previous two years, while Governor "Cheshire Mitch" Daniels smirked his smirk about "balancing" the state budget.
To recap: property taxes zoomed because the ideologues of the GOP, given statehouse and legislative control in 2002 for the first time in over a decade, couldn't wait to repeal the business inventory tax. That is, they couldn't wait long enough to explain just where the replacement funds would be coming from, unless "Jesus" was the answer here, too. And since they wouldn't have dared raise other taxes (sales, income) and ruin their reputations as fiscal "conservatives", everyone knew at the time where the increases would land.
The second portion of the raise comes from the fact that Indiana kept property tax rates and, especially, assessments, artificially low for decades, mostly due to the farm and business lobbies. It's no surprise the locus of the public protests has been the Governor's Governorless Mansion, which just happens to be in the old-old money section of Indianapolis, where years of ridiculously low assessments led to booming increases when assessments began approaching "reality". The first-day protests at Not The Governor's Residence Exactly included the street (Meridian Street, that is, aka US 31) reportedly being blocked for two hours--this in a city where a couple years back mostly young mostly environmental activists protesting the proposed building of a new toll road mostly through southern Indiana farmland were mostly preemptively arrested for looking like they might cross against the green.
Local news has positively reveled in the story. Every night now kicks off with video of outraged white people holding up signs. And don't get me wrong. I'm thrilled at the thought of democracy in action. It's just that I'm more than a little perturbed that the coverage a) completely avoids any mention of how those taxes got there, which could not have been a surprise to anyone who'd been paying attention, meaning that either the tax revolters are led by the clueless or by people who kept their mouths shut when the Republicans responsible ran for re-election last year ; b) has ignored all suggestions of a return of the business inventory tax, which is not exactly favored by the people who bring you the people who bring you "the news"; and c) the focus on the Governor, or rather on where he's supposed to be residing, which ignores the fact that up until last week his role in all this has been to actively promote dumping tax liabilities on local governments so he'd look good, and that in this he was ably assisted by the very people who now "cover" the issue.