Friday, the Indiana General Assembly passed House Bill 1001 and Senate Joint Resolution 1, creating substantial relief for all property owners, as well as reforms that will reduce Indiana's dependance on property tax revenue. Also, we took the first step to make reform permanent by passing Senate Joint Resolution 1. History has shown us that merely tinkering with the tax system will not solve Indiana's reoccuring problems with property taxes.
When then-Gov. Otis Bowen championed a series of bold proposals to reform Indiana's property tax system in 1973, Hoosiers thought their problems with sky-rocketing property tax bills were over. And they were - for a while.
As the years went by, however, property taxes continued to creep up due to the ever-increasing cost of local government services and constuction, unfunded state mandates and repeated tinkering with taxation systems.
During the 2007 legislative session, the bipartisan Legislative Services Agency released a report indicating that Hoosier homeowners were about to experience unprecidented increases on property tax bills because of a series of changes and circumstances that came together to create what many referred to as the perfect storm. In response to this data, the Democrat-controlled House devised a rebate-check plan, in which homeowners would first pay their bills and then receive a rebate months later. Especially in our local communities, we have witnessed firsthand the failure of this ill-conceived plan.
The pressure to create an effective and reasonable package of property tax proposals was immense heading into this session. Property-tax payers made it clear to the general assembly through phone calls, e-mails and letters that failure to provide immediate relief and permanent reform would bring dire consequences come election time in November.
The result of this pressure was a resolve to compromise to create the best policy possible for Indiana's property-tax payers. Despite a bit of partisan gameplaying, which is nothing out of the ordinary, members of the Indiana House and Senate were able to pass a comprehensive set of property tax proposals. In the end, I voted in favor of both HB 1001 and SJR 1, because the most important aspects of the House Republicans' and the governor's plan remained intact. Likewise, the portions I felt would hurt our area the most were removed, such as the residential cap based on household income instead of assessed value.
Here are the highlights of the final tax plan:
We will see the effects of the plan immediately with the next round of property tax bills. By taking care to work towards permanent reforms, in addition to immediate relief, we can (I hope) avoid future increases in property tax bills.
Overwhelmingly, Hoosier homeowners were the driving force behind the Indiana Legislature this session. In 10 weeks, we were able to pass an extensive property-tax package, and this is truly a testament to the power of everyday Hoosiers to influence legislation. This year, it wasn't about the lobbyists or politics. It was about Hoosier property owners.
Contact Rep. Thomas with questions or concerns through e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, by calling the Statehouse toll-free at 1-800-382-9841 or by writing him at the Statehouse, 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46204.