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Daniels' tax plan a mixed bag

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By The Staff

The Indiana General Assembly will soon begin debating Gov. Mitch Daniels' plan to reduce property taxes.

We like some parts of the plan, including raising the state's sales tax one percentage point to help lower property taxes. We editorialized in favor of that move Sept. 17.

We also like that his plan includes a cap on property taxes, limiting them to 1 percent of the assessed value for homes, 2 percent for rental property and 3 percent for business property.

But if housing prices rise as fast as they did in the early years of this decade, limiting homeowners' property taxes to 1 percent of the assessed value could still cause some huge annual increases.

Our preferred method of providing a cap would have been to limit property-tax increases to no more than 3 percent each year (as long as the same owner retains the property), as some other states have done.

We're not sure about some parts of Daniels' program.

He would put a tax board in each county to review and approve all spending plans. We already have elected officials to do this - they're called the county council and county commissioners.

Daniels would also do away with elected county assessors. Each county would have single "professional" assessor appointed by the county council.

Considering that Hoosiers generally like for nearly every public official to be elected - as witnessed by Tuesday's overwhelming vote in favor of an elected school board in Tell City-Troy Township despite that plan's flaw of not providing individual districts for members - we don't think this part of Daniels' plan will fly.

If school-board members, sheriffs, coroners and county clerks are elected, why shouldn't assessors be? Certainly they should be professionals, so require them to pass a test or course in property appraising before they are allowed to run for assessor, just as someone wanting to be county prosecutor - another elected position - is required to graduate from law school and pass the Indiana Bar Exam.

Daniels also proposes shifting the 15 percent of school operating costs currently paid by local property taxes to the state. That might help alleviate the sometimes huge discrepancies between school facilities and teacher salaries in poor and rich communities.

But he would also require all "significant" construction projects be approved by local referendums. That would likely make construction of new schools all but impossible in poor communities - even when seriously needed.

So overall the governor's plan appears to be a mixed bag that deserves close scrutiny by the legislature.

Our view: Editorials reflect the opinions of the newspaper.

Your view: Tell us what you think. E-mail us at editor@perrycountynews.com or mail your comments to P.O. Box 309, Tell City, IN 47586.