[r20] Dermody: Taxpayers Should be Furious Over Bill that Guts Their Right to Choose (3/6/2009)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Start Date: 3/6/2009 All Day
End Date: 3/6/2009
In 2008, the General Assembly passed a bill that gave taxpayers the right to choose whether or not to support expensive school building and local government capital projects. Voter referenda for major construction projects - generally those in excess of $10 million or $20 million - were included in the landmark "Cut Now/Cap Forever" property tax legislation.

And at the ballots last year, taxpayers exercised that right, approving, among others, a $278 million Indianapolis Public Schools bond issue that funded many facility improvements, and a $149 million Evansville bond issue for a new high school and new middle school.  

However, for the House majority party, democracy in action is no longer a good idea.

This year, the House voted 52-48, right along party lines, to gut the legislation that sends these projects to a public referendum. Under House Bill 1730, construction projects that meet certain energy-efficient requirements would no longer need voter approval to take place.

It's your money they're spending, so why shouldn't you have a say? With this new bill, construction costs will go up, and taxpayer protection will go out. This idea makes about as much sense as taking a bucket riddled with holes to an empty well.

Taxpayers will lose big if this bill becomes law.

Supporters of the measure say they are trying to create jobs by building energy-efficient buildings, and doing it quickly, so the projects would be eligible for federal stimulus money. However, the bill mentions nothing about stimulus money, and officials aren't even sure there will be money appropriated for such projects. Instead, the bill bypasses taxpayer approval for projects financed by property taxes, including new constructing and remodeling. 

How, during these difficult economic times, is such an idea a good one? Hoosier families' budgets are getting tighter, and taking away their right to choose is indefensible.