With whimsical issues like naming the state pie- it would have been sugar crème, by the way- behind them, the legislature is settling down to business. At least that's the report from Katrina Hall, a financial specialist and legislative expert for Indiana Farm Bureau, Inc.
Hall recently advised Farm Bureau members that legislators need to hear from them. Of utmost importance at the moment is letting senators know how you feel about the property tax cap amendment, she notes. It will be considered firs tin the senate. This bill must pass verbatim as it did in the '08 legislature to be placed on the general election ballot for approval by the general public as a constitutional amendment. The legislature must pass it either this session or next session. If it passes this year, it could be on the general election ballot in '10.
Governor Daniels and his administration strongly supports moving towards a constitutional amendment, citing that it will be the only way to guarantee that property taxes won't be raised in the future. Indiana Farm Bureau, from president Don Villwock to lobbyist Bob Kraft, to regional fieldmen, strongly disagree. Their viewpoint is that it's far too early to know if the cap system will actually work. Once it's placed into the Indiana Constitution through an amendment, it's like being encased in concrete. Changing it should it prove not to work long-term could be very difficult.
Even if the Senate passes the tax cap, circuit breaker language just as it was worded last year, the bill still has a long ways to go. The Democrats control the House, and Pat Bauer, Democrat, South Bend, the House speaker, insists that he will not let it come up for a vote in the House. Although his reasoning is somewhat different than that of Farm Bureau, he is also opposed to moving forward with making this idea part of the Constitution.
Opponents to the circuit breaker system as passed into law a year ago claim that it will only cause local taxing entities to find other ways to generate revenue. Farm Bureau spokespersons fear that may be on the backs of farmers. A recent report coming out of Purdue University suggests that within three years, bare farmland could be valued at $1,690 per acre, if the current formula used to determine its value remains in place. That would be nearly double the $880 dollar figure used until last year.
Stay tuned to what legislators are thinking, and contact them so they know what you're thinking, Hall urges.