Tuesday, December 04, 2007

lobbying lessons

while he was campaigning, candidate greg ballard made some very specific promises about property taxes. from his campaign site:

As Mayor, I will:

1. Lobby the state legislature to pass a constitutional amendment eliminating property taxes in Indiana. I believe that with the current makeup of the legislature, 35-40% of legislators approve of such a measure.

2. Failing a state constitutional amendment, I will find an acceptable mix of taxes within Marion County to greatly reduce the influence of property taxes in Indianapolis. This will help bring the middle class back to Indianapolis, increasing the overall tax base and reducing the tax burden on the poor.

so... the legislature is in session and talking about property taxes, and greg ballard is there:

Indianapolis Mayor-Elect Greg Ballard listened to the early part of the debate from the House balcony, noting that his mere presence sends a message.

"I think we are seeing the fact that I got elected talking about this quite a bit, has already weighed in on this debate quite a bit so I hope that they hear that," Ballard said.

of course, lobbying the legislature takes a bit more than just showing up.

more than one of today's legislature stories read like that: the legislature met. ballard was there. he's interested in property taxes. only jim shella got the important detail:

Ballard won't testify, but says he will plan to make his feelings known in individual meetings with lawmakers.

that sounds like lobbying to me. so there you have it. looks like ballard is indeed lobbying the legislature for repeal. i guess i was wrong about that one. then again, part 1 was the easy part of that campaign promise. part 2 will be considerably more difficult.

still, the important issue is what should be done about property taxes. as i've said before, repeal is unworkable and unrealistic. property taxes bring in more than $6 million/year, and to make up for that lost revenue, other taxes would have to be raised to unacceptable levels. also, i share doug's reluctance about amending the constitution. ballard (and gary) think a constitutional amendment of some form or another is the bare minimum. i don't get that. i understand why someone would want to support tax caps or even repeal, but why the insistence on an amendment? with all the volatility in the mortgage market today, we don't know what things are going to be like a few years from now, let alone 10, 20, 50 years down the line. even if the governor's plan is perfect for 2007, that doesn't mean it'll still be good in 2107. maybe it's comforting to think that the permanence of an amendment means that the property tax issue will then be "fixed permanently", but i just don't see the real-world benefit of an amendment.