Thursday, December 06, 2007

early to rise but not so wise

in a letter to the editor in today's star, former gop chair rex early continues to spread the myth that recent property tax increases were caused by excessive local spending:

Local spending in Indiana has increased from $2.1 billion in 1984 to $7.9 billion last year. These massive increases are neither fair, nor sustainable to the property taxpayers of Indiana.

That's why I support Gov. Mitch Daniels' proposal to cut property taxes for every Hoosier homeowner, capping them forever at a maximum of 1 percent of a home's value.

Make no mistake: This plan is a big change. It will provide real and permanent property tax relief that homeowners need and deserve.

First, it's appropriate that the state assume the costs of child welfare and the remaining school funding. We can pay for this with a one-cent increase in the state sales tax, gaming revenue already earmarked for property tax relief, and a portion of the state's surplus, which Daniels achieved by controlling state spending the last three years.

if only any of it were true.

the reason the state has a surplus is because the governor "controlled spending" by simply deciding to stop paying for stuff, and mandating that local governments should pay for it instead. so state spending went down, local spending went up (because the state mandated it), and then the governor's office began mocking local governments because their spending went up. that's like me pushing you down into the snow and then laughing at your lack of balance.

in fact, this is quite similar to how we got into the recent property tax mess in the first place. as doug has tried to explain time and time again:

[T]he spike can be mostly explained by:

1. Caps on the Property Tax Replacement Credit and Homestead Credit — These were State actions that were done to allow the State to balance its own budget; in effect, the State balanced its budget on the backs of local government.

2. Elimination of the inventory tax — An action by the State that shifted the tax burden from inventory tax payers to property tax payers.

3. Trending — Part of the State's implementation of a State court's 1998 decision that the State's method of taxation was unconstitutional.

The fact is that the General Assembly and the Governor (primarily through the Department of Local Government Finance) are heavily involved in micromanaging the taxing authority of local government and, consequently, bear most of the blame in the recent property tax increases.

so it's a double whammy. the state forces local governments to take on extra costs but doesn't give them the money to do so, forcing local governments to increase spending and (perhaps) raise taxes, then criticizes local governments for doing what it forced them to.

not to mention that it's unfair to compare numbers from 1984 with numbers from today. in '84, comic books cost $0.60 and vinyl records were $8.99. now comics are $3 a pop and new cds run $18 or more.

rex early is right about one thing, though. it is "appropriate that the state assume the costs of child welfare and the remaining school funding." indeed, increases in state-mandated child welfare costs were one of the causes of the recent tax spike in marion county. if the state's going to require it be done, it's only fair that the state pay for it.

today's star editorial is more reasoned. the editorial insists that "the General Assembly must deliver true reform", but warns them not to do anything too stupid:

Daniels wants to write the caps into the state constitution, a move that would hinder state and local governments' ability to make needed adjustments in the future.

Legislators should be cautious about imposing unequal caps, and doubly skeptical of a constitutional amendment. Yet, as Daniels understands, any reform package that doesn't impose at least semi-permanent caps on property taxes falls short of providing a lasting solution.

as i said before, i don't see any real benefit of an amendment. yes, that makes it harder for future legislatures to screw up any "fixes", but it also makes it harder for them to unscrew any future problems. unless the point of the amendment is to intentionally suffocate local governments then i just don't get it.

finally, since i've gone on this long about property taxes, i might as well touch on the latest related blog scuffle. it seems the "fair tax" folks have been feeling snubbed by mayor-elect ballard since his election and have been venting their alienation over at their blog. new blog the accidental mayor picked up on the venting and quoted one post at length—though it didn't quote my favorite part of the post, which is this:

During his speech last night, Mayor elect Greg Ballard stated he did not run a negative campaign. That is 100% true. However, an effective week-by-week negative campaign was indeed organized, financed, and run. The dirty work of the negative campaign against Bart Peterson was done by rogue groups of activists, bloggers, you tube documenters, and street soldiers who took the personal hits and ridicule to do it for him. This was a critical strategy to prevent our pristine mayor's hands from being soiled with the dirty business of negative campaigning.

but anyway, gary welsh then latched onto the AM post and used it as an excuse to "out" jen wagner as the blogger behind AM and then call her a jealous, petty, greedy bitch (i'm paraphrasing).

as i noted weeks ago, the resemblance between AM and jen's TDW is so strong that AM is practically a carbon copy, so the only question regarding its authorship was whether jen was involved or whether someone else was merely copying her style and format. still, it struck me as odd that gary would out her like that. after all, gary was outraged last year when he thought that steph mineart had accused him of being behind the indyundercover blog (never mind that she said nothing of the sort). then earlier this year, when "the scribe" actually did accuse gary of being indyu, gary threatened to sue. and when someone sent gary evidence (supposedly unverifiable) that abdul hakim-shabazz and ike henderson were the ones behind indyu, gary asked them if it was true and then sat on the allegation when they denied it.

considering all that history, i was a bit surprised that gary would accuse jen of being AM without even confirming it with her. so i sent her an email, suggesting that if she wanted to deny the allegation, she should do it soon. in her reply, she confessed:

I have to sheepishly and belatedly admit that I am, indeed, Accidental Mayor. I've told folks in the media that I'm doing it, but I guess I just never posted anything about it when I added the link to my blogroll.

I made the decision shortly after the election that I needed to get the local stuff off TDW, since my focus there has always been on the Guv's Office and statewide politics. I heard Shella describe Ballard as the "accidental mayor" on election night, so I ran with it.

so there you have it. she clearly wasn't trying to hide her identity because she made no effort to change her author voice and the blog's format is identical to TDW, right down to the redundant quotation marks inside block quotes. (i've never understood those, and can't find any justification for them in the AP stylebook... they're definitely against chicago style.) but it would've been nice if she had officially announced that it was her blog when she started it, as she did with her other new blog, the media-focused bury the lede. apparently she forgot.


Eric Schansberg said...

Purdue's Larry DeBoer found that 1/4th of the property tax hike can be explained by higher local govt spending.

stAllio! said...

eric: i'm reading the larry deboer article that you linked to in your blog post and i don't see any such claim there. in fact, the article says this near the bottom:

Homeowner tax bills are increasing mostly because of tax shifts, from businesses to homeowners, and from the state budget to local taxpayers. In most places, big homeowner tax hikes are not the result of large increases in tax collections. Big increases in government spending are not the main problem.

Doug said...

I haven't gone to the link, but wasn't the average 24% property tax increase made up of about 6% local, 18% state?

(And, thanks for the links stallio! Though they make me look a little like a broken record.)

stAllio! said...

ah... okay, that would have been more clear with a pie chart.

yes, doug, that's pretty much what he says. so eric's statement is technically accurate though perhaps an oversimplification.

at any rate, i'd say the more significant fact is that the state is responsible for 3/4 of the increase. if people's tax bills had only gone up 6% on average, i don't think there'd be any talk of a "crisis".

Anonymous said...

On the Accidental Mayor front, I told some reporters and someone with the Ballard transition team I was doing the blog; I just figured the news would spread. I'm sure Gary thought he had some big scoop. All he had to do was ask.

With respect to the block quotes, I'm not very technologically savvy, so I didn't know how to format them on TypePad until last year. I used to just include the quotes-within-quotes using typical AP Style.

I like the Blogger format, which actually puts little gray quote marks around the block quote. But TypePad doesn't, and I'm a creature of habit, so I went with the redundancy.

Anonymous said...

When asked to comment on her personal views regarding Monroe Gray's ghost employment with IFD, his vote not to have his ethics investigated, and his failure to disclose that he was an owner in a concrete company, Jenn Wagner refused to comment because she reports only on state politicians.

Well, now that she's reporting on local politicians, we'd like to know just what she thinks of Monroe Gray and if she thinks he has a moral compass.

Anonymous said...

Well melyssa, why don't you just tell all of us what you think again, and again, and again....

Wilson46201 said...

It might be interesting to hear what Melyssa thinks about THE PEOPLE (voters) actually voting in a fair and free election to return Monroe Gray to office as Councillor for the 8th District...

In the U.S.A. we don't use "moral compasses" to choose leaders - THE PEOPLE do the selecting!

Anonymous said...

All kinds of corrupt politicians who are now in federal prison were once voted into office.

Don't believe me?

Check into how many politicians in other cities were indicted because of dirty deals with US Filter and Veolia.

Getting votes has nothing to do with a person's morality. It has everything to do with an uninformed voter base. A voter base, I might add, that is rapidly waking up.

Don't believe me?

Check how many votes Gray lost this past election.

Now...I'm curious what Jenn Wagner thinks about Monroe Gray's moral compass now that she admits she speaks about local Indianapolis politicians.

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