Constitutional Amendment Education Teams

Statement from Indiana Watchdogs:

Thanks to a 75-23 vote in the Indiana House and a 35-15 vote in the Indiana Senate on House Joint Resolution 1, Hoosiers statewide will vote this November 2 on a Constitutional Amendment to (1) make the 1% – 2% – 3% property tax caps permanent and (2) protect homestead property tax deductions from legal challenge. The following ballot language was passed in the Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee on January 26 and will likely appear on our November 2 ballots:

PUBLIC QUESTION

Shall property taxes be capped for all classes of property by amending Article 10, Section 1 of the Constitution of the State of Indiana to:

  1. limit a taxpayer’s property tax liability to 1% of the gross assessed value of homestead property, 2% of the gross assessed value of other residential property, 2% of the gross assessed value of agricultural land, 3% of the gross assessed value of other real property, and 3% of the gross assessed value of personal property, excluding any property taxes imposed after being approved by the voters in a referendum and excluding property taxes that are for bonds issued before July 1, 2008, and are imposed before 2020 in Lake County or St. Joseph County;
  2. permit the General Assembly to exempt a mobile home used as a homestead to the same extent as real property; and
  3. specify that a property tax exemption may be granted in the form of a deduction or credit, and that the General Assembly may impose reasonable filing requirements to obtain an exemption, deduction, or credit?

As the leading citizen advocate for the Constitutional Amendment, Watchdog Indiana will assemble and coordinate Constitutional Amendment Education Teams to participate in meetings throughout the state to better inform voters about their November 2 choice. Full Education Team information can be found at https://www.finplaneducation.net/caps_education_teams.htm.

Voter education on the Constitutional Amendment is important. According to the Watchdog Indiana pulse poll, 44% of likely voters will vote for the Constitutional Amendment, while 23% will vote against it and 33% are undecided. The undecided voters need factual information to make an informed decision.

Starting March 15, the Education Teams will be available to attend meetings hosted by any organization or individual. Interested organizations and individuals should contact Watchdog Indiana if they would like to host an Education Team to participate in their meeting.

The ideal Education Team will have up to three Constitutional Amendment proponents and up to three opponents. Anyone is eligible to apply to Watchdog Indiana to be a proponent or opponent on an Education Team. It is expected that Education Team membership will vary depending on where the hosts schedule meetings.

A good meeting format will include audience questions between opening and closing comments by the Education Team. Watchdog Indiana will provide handouts that include the Constitutional Amendment legal language, digest explanation, and ballot language. Watchdog Indiana will also make available nonpartisan information from the Indiana Legislative Services Agency on how the property tax caps and 2008 property tax reform program will affect the tax burden of local working families and businesses, local school revenues, and the revenues of the other local government units where a meeting is held.

With the understanding that participation will depend on schedule availability, please contact Watchdog Indiana if you would like to be a Member of a Constitutional Amendment Education Team? Indicate if you are a proponent or an opponent, and list the counties where you would like to be an Education Team Member. It is perfectly acceptable for someone to be both an Education Team Member and a meeting host.

The importance of Constitutional Amendment education is highlighted by the HJR 1 speech below (under my name) delivered January 11 by State Representative Ed DeLaney on the House floor.

Watchdog Indiana is a non-profit, non-connected, and non-party advocate for good government that focuses on the state and local tax burden of Hoosier working families. An online community is established where Hoosiers come together voluntarily to help encourage our state and local governments better respond to the needs of working families. Watchdog Indiana was established November 14, 2001, and the Watchdog Indiana website can be found at www.watchdogindiana.org.

This is Watchdog Indiana E-mail Update #137-012810, and it was sent to 26,738 Hoosiers in 74 counties.

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January 11, 2010, Speech Representative Edward O. DeLaney as delivered to the Indiana House of Representatives, on the Adoption of Property Tax Caps

We are engaged here in a critical debate about the future of this state. We face two important issues only one which can be dealt with by today’s action. Those two issues are the public’s confidence in our tax system and the ability of Indiana government to provide needed services at a reasonable cost. Our vote today can restore our homeowners’ belief that we will not drive them from their homes by imposing unreasonable property taxes. It will take us years to prove that having taken this critical step our local governments, in concert with our state government, will still be able to provide needed services.

I anticipate, as do many of you, that our citizens will vote overwhelmingly to put property tax caps into our Constitution. I do not believe it to be a panacea. However, I do believe that the passage of the referendum will give us a reasonable chance of creating a predictable system of property taxation. And, it is predictability that our voters and homeowners most require. The chances of providing much-needed predictability depends on two things. The first is the strengthening of our system of property tax assessment. For too long it has been too varied, too uneven and has not earned the public’s trust. We must work diligently to make sure that our assessors have the tools they need and that they use them wisely. The second requirement for success depends on us. We are moving, albeit slowly and fitfully, to a system in which real property assessments equate with market values. We are already being pressed to deviate from reliance on market values in order to benefit certain property owners. I ask each of you to join with me in resisting this temptation. If we do not, the system of property taxation will come off the rails yet again.

I will suggest that everyone in this room is aware that property tax caps will seriously limit the ability of our local governments provide needed services. I fear that there are two reactions to this reality. Some of my friends on the other side of the aisle seem to believe that every governmental unit in this state is plagued by waste and incompetence. They even seem to doubt the necessity of much of what government does. I implore them not to use property tax caps as a device to conduct a “grand experiment” in starving government. The second reaction to property tax caps I fear is a form of “conservatism” not usually associated with my party. It is the idea that whatever government we have now is right in all of its details. There is a natural reluctance to tinker with the system that has let each of us be elected to this body. We need to move beyond that and to see whether our current structures function and at what cost. I urge you all to join me in an effort to create government structures in this state that protect our taxpayers but also our people, especially those in need. As Pres. Kennedy said in his inaugural address: “if a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”

Let me end on a cautionary note. Several years ago the Indiana Gen. assembly undertook full responsibility for the operating costs of our public schools. We are beginning to see how this transfers a great deal of power and responsibility to us in this body and necessarily limits what local school officials can do. The action that we take today will certainly lead to a significant transfer of power from local government to the Statehouse. I react to this with a mixture of fear and hope. Fear that we will ignore our responsibilities and injure our schools and local governments and hope that we will find ways to create an effective efficient government that serves our people. I vote for hope and will work against fear.

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