Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

January 29, 2013

Local councils may lose wheel tax control

Legislators looking to increase road funding

Kokomo — They’ve tried three times to establish a wheel tax in Miami County, but the road-funding measure never found the votes to pass.

The Miami County Council is where the impasse lies.

The last time the idea was broached, in 2005, it failed on a 3-2 council vote. It needed four votes to pass.

Now state legislators want county councils to share the wheel tax decision with cities and towns.

State Reps. Mike Karickhoff, R-Kokomo, and Bill Friend, R-Macy, have proposed putting the decision in the hands of a county income tax council, a fiscal body created by the Indiana General Assembly in 1984 to decide local income tax issues.

A tax council, as it’s called, is actually a series of votes by different elected fiscal bodies, with each body controlling a specific percentage of the overall vote.

For instance, in Howard County, where upwards of 60 percent of the population lives in the city of Kokomo, the city would control a similar majority of the vote. Greentown and Russiaville’s respective town councils would control much smaller percentages of the overall vote.

Miami County Council President Ralph Duckwall said Tuesday the Karickhoff-Friend bill might not make much of a difference in Miami County, where the majority of the population still lives in unincorporated areas. That means, even under the tax council method of voting, the county council would still hold a majority.

Duckwall said the county could use more road funding, but he is hesitant to impose a wheel tax. He said he has qualms about spreading the responsibility for the decision.

“The fewer people creating more taxes the better,” Duckwall said. “You shouldn’t jump at the chance to raise taxes.”

But the measure, HB1117, is due up for a hearing in front of the House Ways and Means Committee today, and it has the potential to change the prospects of establishing a wheel tax in the 45 counties currently without one.

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