Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Opinion

January 17, 2014

MARK BENNETT: What is Indiana's image in the eyes of the world?

Statehouse must consider impact of repealing personal property tax.

(Continued)

Of course, not every out-of-stater views Indiana through that prism.

Some may think of bumpy highways and dilapidated downtown buildings in Hoosier cities. “There’s a lot of neglect in the state,” said Morton Marcus, an economic columnist and retired director of the Indiana Business Research Center. He cited the landscape visible while driving into Indiana from Chicago on the Indiana Toll Road.

“Unless you’re a romantic about dying industries and decaying cities,” Marcus said by telephone, “you don’t have much of a positive feeling about the state.”

The reality of that situation, present in various Hoosier communities and seen by visitors, can’t be shrugged off. Thus, Indiana legislators should think twice about eliminating the state’s tax on business equipment (known as the business personal property tax) as Gov. Mike Pence envisions. Despite the logical pluses of adding it to the long list of other tax cuts enacted over the past decade, dropping this tax would shift the burden of funding $1 billion for local services to work-a-day Hoosiers and further squeeze already-squeezed cities and towns, school districts and libraries.

Most supporters of the equipment tax cut, including Pence and some leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature, seem to acknowledge a replacement source for funding police protection, city parks upkeep and schools is necessary, but have yet to offer a good alternative. Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma’s vision is a scaled-back version of the Pence plan. Indiana’s leaders need to consider the impact of fully eliminating the tax.

Indiana already has its low-tax, business-friendly status in the quest to lure new companies here. The other half of the economic equation is just as important. High-caliber, long-term, solid-paying employers want to find active, well-kept, energetic and entertaining communities where employees can hike and bike on smooth trails, send kids to fully staffed and challenging schools, recreate in scenic parks, drive on evenly paved roads, breathe clean air, visit innovative libraries, and raise families in neighborhoods with properly funded police and fire protection.

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