Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 16, 2014

You shall not pass?

By Scott Smith Tribune columnist
Kokomo Tribune

---- — If the Indiana General Assembly is going to pass a business personal property tax cut, it will probably have to go through State Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Monticello, the chair of the powerful Senate Tax & Fiscal Policy Committee.

In a brief interview this past week, Hershman said he’d prefer the idea be sent to a study committee for further review, saying a solution to the problem of shifting $1.1 billion in business taxes without creating an undue burden on Joe Taxpayer “isn’t readily apparent.”

Anyone watching Gov. Mike Pence’s State of the State address Tuesday may have noticed Pence saying he wanted the Legislature to eliminate the tax without loading it “onto the backs of hardworking people.”

The general attitude at the Statehouse right now, to that statement, is one of incredulity. Remember, Pence hasn’t offered a blueprint for how to pay for the cut, other than to suggest it could be done over time, and that it could be buffered by growth in the economy.

He just finished getting the Legislature to cut the state income tax rate, so we’re assuming that’s off the table. Many legislators would also consider forcing more than $550 million in cuts to schools and local government services to be an undue burden.

The House Republicans came up with a belated plan to allow individual counties to eliminate the tax on new investment only, with caveats that businesses couldn’t qualify simply by moving operations across county lines.

Howard County officials dislike that idea as well, mainly because the business personal property tax accounts for more than 30 percent of all local revenue by some estimates. That means Howard County would be unable to offer the cut, and would be put at a competitive disadvantage.

“Does it create a race to the bottom?” Hershman said of county-by-county elimination. “Competition is a good thing, but if you’re competing on an unlevel playing field, it’s a challenge.”

The author of the county-by-county elimination proposal, HB1001, is State Rep. P. Eric Turner, R-Cicero, who represents Tipton County and Union Township in Howard County.

Tipton stands for recycling

Tipton Mayor Don Havens has a dilemma, created when Tippecanoe Waste Removal went out of business this past week.

City of Tipton trash trucks pick up curbside recycling, and until Tippecanoe went bust, the city trucks took the material to a sorting facility Tippecanoe ran off Division Road.

Now the city is trying to decide whether to take the recycling it picks up to Frankfort, to Kokomo, or elsewhere. Any way Havens slices it, picking up the recycling is about to get more expensive for the city.

Havens said the city remains committed to the recycling program.

“I don’t see it as an insurmountable problem,” Havens said. “You either embrace recycling — and embrace the various costs associated with it — or you don’t. We believe it’s the right thing to do.”

Saga takes a twist

Kokomo attorney Robert Nice is back again in his quest to turn a Sycamore Street mansion into a law office, filing for a special residential exception with the Kokomo Plan Commission.

Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight’s administration locked horns with Nice over the property, formerly owned by the Kautz and Bolinger families, and Nice’s plan to have it rezoned commercial. The Kokomo Common Council voted against the rezoning on a split vote, and Nice’s subsequent attempt to sue the city went nowhere.

Nice said the residential exception would be a compromise. He’d be able to host clients at the mansion, and would be able to put a sign on the side of the house. The property wouldn’t be zoned commercial, and Nice has invested considerable money in improving the property already. Goodnight had no comment last week on Nice’s latest proposal.