The Governor has ordered reassessment of Marion County’s real property. In the meantime, Gov. Daniels has enlisted former Governor Joe Kernan and Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall Shepard to head up a commission to “find long-term solutions to the property tax crisis, including the possible elimination of township-county assessors and other government streamlining ideas.” Gov. Daniels hopes to get the commission’s report by December. The Governor has also apparently instructed Marion County property tax payers to pay their 2006 level of tax as opposed to what they apparently owe in 2007.
A couple of observations: First, as Advance Indiana points out, this would seem to create a potential conflict for Justice Shepard if some of his recommended legal changes get adopted, then challenged, then reviewed by the Indiana Supreme Court. Second, does anyone know where the Governor gets the authority to order reassessment for Marion County and to freeze Marion County tax payers’ bills at the 2006 level for the time being? I assume he wouldn’t do anything this monumental without having solid authority, but it seemed like a relevant question. Also, is Marion County in risk of defaulting on anything important as its tax revenues are being dried up – first by the elimination of the inventory tax, second by the reduction of payments by the State in the form of the property tax replacement credit and homestead credit, and third by the Governor’s tax freeze on Marion County property tax levels?
In a post entitled, Sir, The Taxpayers Are Revolting, Doghouse Riley gives us a brief history of our current property tax situation:
There’s a fairly straightforward explanation for what’s happened to Indiana’s property taxes: the state Supreme Court found the assessment system unconstitutional; successive state legislatures found it more prudent, from a re-election standpoint, to punt the issue; a single-party gained control, including an incompetent, self-aggrandizing Governor who used the budget process to make himself look good; and most directly, the ill-considered abolition of the business inventory tax with no specification as to its replacement. Yet there’s a continual drumbeat of “don’t point fingers, just solve the problem,” notably from the Indianapolis Star, as well as other Daniels die-hards who realize their man has fucked up Big Time. Daniels, who has been lauded–by no one so much as himself–for his “fearless” leadership, simply refused to have anything to do with the issue, hoping, perhaps, that astronomical local tax increases would gnaw a chunk from the man once considered his most likely ’08 challenger, Indianapolis mayor Bart Peterson. Now he sits on a state budget surplus, not to mention what he’s raked in selling off taxpayer assets, and does his best Hamlet–assuming Hamlet was played by a 58-year-old with a comb-over (which he sometimes was) and assuming he tried to get his picture in the paper every day (which he didn’t).