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Governor fields questions at Santa Claus business dinner

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By The Staff

SANTA CLAUS - Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels promoted his plan for property taxes and fielded questions about county-government structure during a dinner in Santa Claus that included local educators and politicians.

The dinner was sponsored by several area chambers of commerce, including the Spencer County Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The Rev. Mike Shelton, pastor at Baker Chapel in Degonia Springs, gave the invocation.

In his opening remarks, Daniels said Shelton's invocation at the dinner Feb. 6 - the day after tornadoes killed several in Kentucky, Tennessee and other states - reminded him of when he was in the area when the deadly 2005 tornado destroyed Baker Chapel.

"Congratulations on the rebirth at Baker Chapel," Daniels said to Shelton.

Daniels talked about his job announcements in the area earlier the day of the dinner, one at Cook Pharmaceutical Solutions in Bloomington and the other bringing 150 AT&T call-center jobs to Evansville.

He called Indiana an "island of growth," and said the state has its lowest unemployment rate in six years.

"Hoosiers are winning the competition for jobs," Daniels said. He also mentioned the possibility of developing industry in Spencer County, but no announcements were made.

"Tom Utter and the folks working with him have been doing a spectacular job," Daniels said.

After discussing economic growth, Daniels got into his plan for tax reform in Indiana.

Daniels is proposing tax caps at one percent for property owners, 2 percent for renters and 3 percent for businesses.

He said his plan would lead to an immediate reduction in tax bills. "We would have some of the lowest property taxes in America."

Daniels said the tax reform is part of his plan to get Indiana on the right track financially. He said the state, like a business, needs to be able to spend with the ability to pay.

The question should not be how much does the government think it needs, but how much can the taxpaying resident be expected to fund.

He added that more money in the pockets of Hoosiers is more money in the pockets of business customers.

To close the dinner, Daniels fielded questions on topics ranging from his views on bariatric surgery to local government reform and the local-option income tax.

Spencer County Council member Jack Kroeger told the governor some of his ideas would put more of a burden on smaller counties and force them to look at instituting a local-option income tax.

He added such a tax is not feasible in Spencer County.

Daniels said he's not pushing for such a levy, but "some other resource to substitute for the property tax."

In response to a question, Daniels said he'd also like to see Indiana have more say in the presidential primary election. He suggested holding a primary whenever New Hampshire does.