[r85] Pond's Column Wrap-up of 2008 Session (3/18/2008)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Start Date: 3/18/2008 All Day
End Date: 3/18/2008
The Legislature started this session with three major issues - property taxes, property taxes, property taxes. As skyrocketing property tax bills hit mailboxes last year, the governor proposed a strong plan that put us on the right track toward providing permanent tax relief for all Hoosier taxpayers.

We initially began with his proposal of instituting property tax caps, cutting tax bills permanently. This would be accomplished with a 1-percent cap of assessed value on homesteads, 2-percent caps on rental properties and a 3-percent cap on businesses. After passing through both chambers and numerous conference committees, many amendments were made to the bill. Ultimately, the Legislature came to a conclusion that most members feel will effectively address the property tax crisis Indiana has been facing.

For the first year of the plan, there will be a 1.5-percent cap on homestead property, 2.5-percent cap on rental property and a 3.5-percent cap on businesses. After the first year we will then proceed with the governor's initial 1-2-3 plan. This plan is intended to provide more funding to local governments and will help us ease into the new plan. I want to be sure local governments can continue to fund the services we all utilize, such as education, safety and health. Taxpayers will now know exactly what to expect before their tax bill even arrives. I strongly believe that the most important parts of the property tax plan passed both chambers and great efforts were made by both parties.

As a strong advocate for education I am pleased that the Little Red Schoolhouse amendment to the original property tax plan remained in the bill. This amendment will require the Department of Education to have five to six school building plans already drawn up for counties to use. This could potentially save Hoosier taxpayers millions of dollars in design fees. School systems that feel the need to put more money into capital projects may only do so by obtaining approval through a referendum to all voters in the next general election. It was time to give the taxpayers a voice in our government's decision-making process.

I am also very pleased to have taken part in the governor's first bill signing dealing with the Great Lakes Compact. The compact is a regional agreement to help monitor, manage and protect water resources from the Great Lakes. The two Canadian provinces that border on the Great Lakes also have joined the pact. The compact instructs each state in the Great Lakes region to regulate water use and adopt conservation plans for protecting the waters of the five Great Lakes. The five Great Lakes is the largest body of fresh water as it contains 20 percent of the world's total supply. There is a great desire by many of the states in the southwest to divert some of the water from the five Great Lakes to their states. This compact will protect our valuable water resources from such misuses.

I believe this year's session provided some major wins for Indiana taxpayers. I am looking forward to seeing the positive changes this Legislature has made for the future of Indiana.

As always, feel free to contact me with any comments or concerns. I may be reached through e-mail at h85@iga.in.gov, by calling the Statehouse toll-free at 1-800-382-9841 or by writing me at the Statehouse, 200 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46204.