Governor ordering new assessment
By Mary Beth Schneider
July 18, 2007
Citing evidence that commercial property assessments were either undone or inaccurately performed, Gov. Mitch Daniels today ordered a full reassessment of all parcels in Marion County and said he’d freeze tax bills at 2006 levels.
“We’re here to solve problems, and we’re beginning with the immediate -- at least in Marion County — today. People need relief now, and we can’t have people losing their homes because of unfair taxes,” Daniels said.
Wow. How'd he do that???
You might well ask. It's not clear where the Governor gets the power to overturn the lawful (if awful) actions of other elected officials (excepting, of course, his recognized veto power, the one that might have stopped all the mess before it started). It would have been nice, seeing how hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers would be reluctant to accept a personal check from the man, if he'd seen fit to explain it. Doug Masson unearths the Department of Local Government Finance (formerly the State Board of Tax Commissioners--yeah, it's news to me, and I live here) which apparently does have the statutory authority to order, and conduct, a reassessment, but only after a public hearing. To this end the hearing has been scheduled, now, after the decision to reassess has already been made. Sometimes I imagine things have not been quite right ever since I read Gravity's Rainbow.
Now--you may want to sit down--I think the Daniels "solution" has some merit, principally as a temporary solution to some people's astronomical property tax increases. But he wasn't elected--contrary to his own beliefs, apparently--the official Hoosier Gordian Knot Untangler. He's the governor. The same "solution" would be enacted by following the law as by short-circuiting it. The difference, of course, being that Daniels couldn't have ridden in and saved the day, per the tax protester who told the teevee cameras last evening she'd been looking for a Hero and now she may have found one.
To which we reply: you've been looking in the wrong place. The theatres are air-conditioned. What we're looking for, ourselves, is a competent plumber, which is not the same as a guy who sticks a wad of chewing gum around a leak and hopes you don't notice the size of the bill before you sign it.
But for once, really, I don't mean to be hyper-critical of Mitch Daniels. I just wish he'd have timed it better and not made me write about the Indiana Property Tax Crisis again today, which he could have by following the law. And I'm not gonna talk about (praeteritio alert) the potentially major can of worms he's opened up for local spending, or the small number of people whose tax bills actually went down (the news'll be finding them in the next couple days) only to be yanked back up, or the people in other counties who are equally pissed about their tax bills and have just watched squeaky wheel meet grease gun.
Instead, let's note that just a few days ago Mitch was talking about how these are local taxes caused by local spending, hence a local problem, and now that he's inserted himself he's gonna be forced to lead America's Third Worst State Legislature™ in an election year, with everyone's eyes, for once, on how it handles money instead of what it's doing to impede abortion rights or put Jesus on the courthouse lawn. And best of luck with that, G'v'ner; one of the most powerful Republicans in in the House, Indianapolis' Phil Hinkle, was on the tube last night insisting we should solve the problem by eliminating property taxes altogether, and being cagey about where the money would come from to replace them. (And there's nothing new about that: House Republicans introduced a bill in 2005, when they were in the majority, which would have done exactly that without raising a dime of replacement revenue.) The estimate I saw was that state sales tax would go from 6-10% and income tax double. Meaning, of course, that the poor subsidize the wealthy, the young subsidize higher property values for retirees, and everyone continues to subsidize the big box fireworks store up the block, until the block blows up.
Channel 8 actually went wall-to-wall for an hour about the issue last night, including a panel discussion and everything (we can only hope that someone saw fit to buy the switchboard lady a couple of drinks after her shift, since she obviously listened to an hour of irate callers demanding to know what happened to The Paris Hilton Show). It could be an interesting precedent: local news covering local news. Maybe then we'd have an actual informed electorate, one which understood the difference between an equitable system and irresponsible, pocket-lining giveaways in the name of "fairness". Maybe if people got to listen to actual experts, such as economist Morton Marcus last night, they'd have a fuller appreciation of the requirement of balancing necessary and desirable services with a tax system designed to pay for them, and back up all the No Child Left Behind and First Responder Hero rhetoric with a happy willingness to foot the bill. Maybe the ninety minute block of local news each evening could inform people about serious issues like air quality and the antiquated sewer system, or teach them about their less fortunate fellow citizens, examine health care, education, gang and domestic violence in depth and not anecdotally at best, and leave the celebrity gossip and promotion of their network's evening line-up to more appropriate venues.
Nah, just playin' witcha.