Better Business Benefits At What Cost?

by Curt Kovener 

In case you have been snowed in or snowed under by the focus on House Joint Resolution-3 that would make same sex marriage and civil unions banned by the Indiana Constitution, Gov. Mike Pence also wants to give businesses a tax break…a big tax break. He wants to eliminate the taxes business, both big and small, pay on personal property.

That would mean the manufacturing equipment of industry, computers for small business, and tractors, combines and production equipment of farmers.

To make for that tax savings for those businesses, it would eliminate over $391 million in assessed value in Jackson County, according to the Department of Local Government website. That’s 21.5% of the current Jackson County assessed valuation. Crothersville, Vernon Township and the local school would endure a similar percentage reduction in AV.

Assessed valuation is where government gets the money to provide for police & fire protection, ambulance service and the like.

So where would the county, towns, fire districts, schools make up the lost revenue from the governor’s tax shift? More than likely it will be Jackson County elected leaders who will get to choose from a number of income based tax increases.

Of course, sticky wickets abound.

Jackson County is an importer of workers; we have more people coming into the county to work than go out of the county to work. Since county income taxes follow workers to their home county, quite possibly neighboring counties will benefit for increased funding more so than our county.

Workers in Jackson County businesses would be paying more taxes from their wages in order to subsidize the tax cuts for their employer. Does anyone else see the fly in this unfair ointment?

And every county may have a different rate. If you work in Washington County you may have less money taken out of your paycheck than if you live in Bartholomew County.

Many state elected leaders feel that decreasing taxes on business will lead to more business and more jobs. But business and industry consider quality of life matters such as good roads, good schools, good police, fire and emergency medical services when they contemplate expanding or locating into a new area. And yet, roads, schools, police, fire and emergency services would be the ones that would face budget cuts if the business personal property taxes were eliminated.

I am sure less taxes mean higher business profits. I am not so sure less taxes mean more jobs. But if they do, if we eliminate all taxes on business, would I have a line of employers at my door with job offers?

The leaders in the statehouse howl with cries of “unfunded mandates” when federal rules are imposed on them which cost states money. But it would seem our Hoosier leaders feel it is good business sense to inflict local unfunded mandates in the name of helping business.

A few years back, Hoosiers bought in to the bill of goods that put property tax caps into the Hoosier Constitution. Afterall, we all want to wean government of that wasteful spending. Now cities, towns, and counties struggle to meet those basic service needs because of tax caps.

So if the police, fire or ambulance are slow to respond to your call for help, if the streets you drive become rough and riddled with potholes, if sidewalks start crumbling, parks become overgrown and offer no programs blame it on the Hoosier goal of low taxes and constitutional amendments.