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Think before you change the constitution

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By The Staff

If you're a voter, you'll be asked in November if you want to help change the Indiana Constitution.

Property-tax caps that have been the subject of numerous news stories, several here and many elsewhere, survived the first of the steps, in 2008 and this year, required to get them into the state's most important document.

Step 3 is yours to handle, as a voter in November's election.

"A world of hurt" might be the most accurate phrase to describe the result of the 2008 legislation, which also shifted the cost of many government services away from property taxes. The state's sales tax was hiked 1 percent to make up for the revenue expected to be lost in what was described as property-tax relief, but economic conditions reduced that cash flow. We have reported on some of the resulting hurt, being felt by school corporations and other government entities.

Maybe we need to undergo a world of hurt to get to a better Indiana. Significant change often entails a painful birthing process whose results make the struggle worthwhile.

We don't think the tax caps should become part of the state's constitution, however, until they've had time to prove their own worth. As we report in a Page 1 story in this issue, the state's Farm Bureau and Chamber of Commerce don't like them, but feel the caps have too much popular support to fight.

The reason behind that support is obvious. Many people feel their tax burden is too heavy, so a suggestion that it might be limited is appealing. Some people opposed to inserting the caps into the constitution point out, however, that they won't guarantee tax relief.

The Madison Courier, which serves five counties in Indiana and Kentucky, reported March 22 that fewer homeowners benefited from tax reform than expected because another property-tax relief law went into effect at the same time. The state's Legislative Services Agency projects 28.6 percent of Hoosier homeowners will benefit from the caps next year, the same report noted.

One local farmer quoted in our news story said different tax rates are unconstitutional, because "the constitution says taxes will be fair." State Sen. Jim Lewis and Rep. Dave Cheatham have said they will vote against the constitutional amendment for that reason.

The reason the caps were proposed was called into question in a December editorial in Bloomington's Herald-Times: The only reason to approve the caps is political, because legislators can claim they voted to lower property taxes permanently.

The legislators did "give" local governments a way to make up for lost revenues, in several options for increasing local-option income taxes.

Before deciding whether to help insert the tax caps into the constitution, voters should ask:

Are they fair?

Will they provide the promised tax relief?

Is it necessary that they go into the constitution now?

Any changes to the constitution should be based on certainties, not hopes or promises. They don't exist in this proposal.

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.