A Lesson Learned, But Are We Listening?

by Curt Kovener curt-line.jpg

I suppose it was inevitable. But I didn’t think the lesson would be taught this quickly.

Last week state leaders got the news they didn’t want to hear. Indiana’s projected (and already budgeted to be spent) income would be short by $600 million.

That is not a number that I can easily understand. But in effect, if Indiana is akin to a family then one of the bread winners just had his/her work hours reduced. Decisions must now be made on how to pay the mortgage, keep the utilities on, buy food. At the forefront is taking care of what is important to the family.

Compounding the state’s problem is the recent zeal to lower property taxes. School general fund money is no longer paid by property tax owners. It is paid by state revenue which comes primarily from income, sales and excise taxes.

And, as we have now witnessed, those three tax sources dry up when the economy goes sour.

You’ll remember, it was Gov. Mitch Daniels who pushed to raise sales taxes to help pay for Hoosier schools general fund services and remove it from property taxes. At the time some cautionary people wondered what would happen if the economy deteriorated and funding was short. And before the state made even its first general fund payment to schools, that has come to pass.

Perhaps it is good to recall the history so that we do not repeat it.

In the not-too-distant past, I recall hearing property tax opponents wanting to do away with property taxes and replace it with income and sales taxes. We are now experiencing the folly of such thought.

I also recall the Daniels administration encouraging cities and towns to implement an income tax to make up for funding for government services trimmed by a quest for lower property taxes. In light of the economy, I wonder if unemployment benefits are income tax producing?

So if it would unfortunately come to pass and your community government was funded by income and sales tax—just so we all wouldn’t have to pay those $%^&!* property taxes, what service would you trim: Police protection? Fire protection? Emergency medical service? How about if we don’t plow the snow off roads and streets?

For those self-centered knuckleheads who claim they pay property taxes for services they don’t use or that by paying property taxes they never really quit paying for the home they own: please open your eyes to your hypocrisy.

There are those who claim that since they have no children in school, they should not have to help pay for the school. We buy insurance on our home and our autos, and can go for years without using it. Do we hear people grousing that they never really own their home or auto because they have to keep paying for insurance? It’s a service we pay for in case we need it and the same applies to property taxes.

Every dime we pay at the courthouse is distributed to branches of government in our county to supply services we have come to expect.

Even though we may not have called for police, ambulance or fire services to come to our aid this year, those services must be paid for—just like the home & auto insurance prudent people purchase in case they need it.

And those prudent people know that property taxes are a stable source of funding for necessary services. And now we are witness that income and sales taxes are not.

And I’ll bet those property tax opponents will be the first to complain when the government service they want is cut.

Grandpa said, “Be careful what you ask for. You just might get it.”