How does the governor propose legislators pull that off?
His speech gave lawmakers no guidance. Pence’s supporters say that, as a former congressman, the governor’s manner is to lay out the agenda and let the legislators work out the plan to achieve it. If that’s his strategy on business personal property tax, he’s handed the General Assembly a formidable task.
Tribune reporters on Jan. 12 detailed the loss of $31.6 million to local units in St. Joseph County, which would result if the tax were eliminated next year.
The biggest losers would be the cities of South Bend and Mishawaka, which would stand to lose 8.4 percent and 6.3 percent of their budgets, respectively.
Both mayors said there’s no way the cuts could be absorbed because of the millions in revenues the cities forfeited in recent years with property tax caps enacted under Gov. Mitch Daniels. If we accept that, then one way out is for them to cut services — which many public officials and economic development officials say will discourage their ability to attract business growth. The only alternative the governor has floated in recent months is to replace the revenue through local option tax — in effect, shifting the burden from businesses to homeowners and pitting local communities against one another in the race to be cheapest.
The business personal property tax does appear to be outdated and inequitable. But for now, it seems that eliminating it will require homeowners to shoulder even more of the burden of educating workers and providing other attractive services and amenities in their communities. That doesn’t sound like what Pence called for in his State of the State.
— South Bend Tribune