Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 9, 2013

Buck pushing tax cut, annexation bills

Senator also wants to get rid of judge age limits.

By Scott Smith
Tribune staff writer

Indianapolis — State Sen. Jim Buck has a fallback plan in place, just in case the Indiana General Assembly won’t get behind Gov.-elect Mike Pence’s push for a 10 percent cut in the state’s flat income tax rate.

Buck’s plan, an even larger income tax drop, phased in over four years instead of the Pence plan’s two, would cost the state somewhere between $164 million (the state’s estimate) and $140 million (Buck’s estimate).

“I think if you’re going to grow the economy, this will help,’ Buck said. “Putting extra money in people’s pockets is just a way to keep the cost of living down.”

The income tax proposal, perhaps headed for the same limbo Pence’s proposal seems stuck in, is one of 10 bills Buck has filed ahead of Friday’s deadline, and by far the one with the biggest potential impact on the state’s coffers.

Upon the passage of property tax reform and property tax caps in the last decade, Buck switched his focus from filing perennially ignored bills to eliminate property taxes to filing largely ignored bills to reduce income taxes.

This time around, with Pence also showing an interest in the idea, it’s possible Buck’s proposal could gain more traction. Buck recently told the Evansville Courier & Press that the bill received a warm welcome from fellow Republicans.

Buck’s other ongoing issue in recent years has been annexation, and this year he is eschewing his past pattern of placing numerous anti-annexation measures into one bill, in hopes that the legislature might be willing to pass some of the measures in smaller chunks.

The one Buck said he’s most hopeful about is a measure which would require annexation waivers to be recorded onto a property deed.

Currently, there is no requirement to record the waivers, in which a property owner gives up any future right to remonstrate against an annexation in return for city services.

The city of Kokomo collected hundreds of waivers from property owner affected by the West Side and East Side annexations, but in some cases the current property owner had no idea that the original owners had signed a waiver.

“It’s a good thing for realtors, so they don’t get blamed. And it helps the cities, because people can’t say. ‘You just didn’t tell me,’” he said.

While Buck is hoping the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns won’t come out against the waivers bill, his bills to get rid of the 65 percent supermajority needed to kill an annexation will be heavily opposed, as will another bill allowing unincorporated hamlets to incorporate to stave off annexations.

Buck is also proposing to increase the penalty for involuntary manslaughter when committed with a vehicle, from a Class D felony, punishable by up to two years in prison, to a Class C felony, punishable by up to eight years. Buck said he is hoping to pass the bill separately from a comprehensive update to the Indiana Criminal Code being pushed by State Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford.

Steele’s bill incorporates a number of recommendations from a summer legislative study committee. Buck said those measures wouldn’t take effect until July 2014 if they pass, and he’d like to see his felony enhancement pass sooner.

Buck said he’s filing the bill partially out of deference to the family of Kokomo resident Jeremy Bagwell, who was killed by a driver in southern Indiana as he did roadside construction work.

Finally, Buck is trying to expand the scope of the bill he passed last year, which eliminated the maximum age limit for circuit and superior court judges.

This time, he’s trying to eliminate the age limit for Indiana appellate court judges, including the Indiana Supreme Court and the Indiana Court of Appeals.

“I’m not sure what the reasoning was when they put those limits in place years and years ago, but the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t have limits, so why are we doing it?”

Scott Smith can be reached at 765-454-8569 or at scott.smith@kokomotribune.com