Friday, November 30, 2007
Essay # 2
Retooling our Tax Bills
So let’s begin solving our tax crisis in Indiana by fixing our tax bills. Let’s adopt a reverse engineering method to solving our problem by starting with the form and content of our actual tax bill.
A tax bill is the closest official contact many Hoosiers ever have with their government. Citizens may not understand what assessors, auditors, treasurers, recorders, and clerks are supposed to do. Citizens may not know the difference between a Trustee and Commissioner, a county council and a township board, or the judge of a circuit court and a superior court. Many don’t know what a township is, what it does, and which one they live in. A surprising number of people don’t even know who’s supposed to come when they dial 911. But they do know what a tax bill is and while most don’t know exactly what happens when you don’t pay your tax bill, they know it can’t be good and involves the Sheriff.
So how can we possibly talk about inspiring the masses, making sweeping changes, and reforming anything if the taxpaying citizens are so disconnected from the very government they are financing?
My idea is not new; it’s being done elsewhere and here’s how it works. Each year the government (in our case the County Treasurer) is required to present each taxpayer an itemized tax bill. Even if the taxpayer’s Mortgage Company or bank pays the bill, the taxpayer must get a copy. The bill is itemized line-by-line by each taxing authority. For example, if my bill is $ 1 and that dollar is comprised of tax levies from my city, county, township, library, school district, and conservancy district, each would be line itemed showing how much of the dollar each taxing unit is charging me. This number would be accompanied by the total amount charged in the previous year followed by the % increase or decrease. No need to hunt up last year’s bill, or legal notices, or phone an informed friend to see how my new bill compares to last year. One the same line would be the contact information for the respective taxing authority (contact name, phone number, e-mail address, web URL, mailing address - whatever it takes to get in touch with the elected official(s) responsible with a question, comment, concern, complaint, or commendation).
Taxpaying citizens receive an information-rich bill which invites inquiry and promotes accountability while providing a tool to inform & educate our citizens.
We demand better service and more accountability from our favorite restaurant than we do our government. That can’t be right. Nothing gets solved without knowing exactly what we’re paying for, what we’re supposed to receive, and who’s responsible.
I realize one suggested solution is to eliminate real estate taxes entirely which means we would no longer receive tax bills. I don’t think that’s likely to occur in my lifetime. Moreover, the tragedy of this would be that the bill for local government would be buried even deeper someplace else and we’d be further from knowing how much we’re paying and where our tax dollars are actually spent.
Retooling our tax bill represents a powerful and meaningful first step towards a solution to our tax crisis. It can’t be OUR idea; it can’t be OUR government if we haven’t a clue what it is, how it works, who’s responsible, and how much it costs. It’s impossible to take ownership.
Before we demand special legislative sessions, State constitutional conventions, and blue ribbon commissions to solve the government “for” the people part of the equation, we need to solve the “of and by” part.
If it’s gonna work and be lasting, it’s gotta be all three – of, by and for the people.
Government Of, By and For the People - Essay #1
Government of, by and for the PeopleHoosiers in Marion County were among the first in the State to receive their 2007 tax bills. They now understand first hand the effect of the “perfect storm” in local government finance (that is, what happens when real estate tending, elimination of inventory tax, and the 2% cap on real estate taxes are realized simultaneously). The rest of us will come to the same realization and feel the same pain when we receive our tax bills later this year (many of us will be forced to choose between paying taxes or purchasing Christmas presents).
Our State legislature saw the storm coming during their last session and attempted to buffer its effects by offering tax credits issued in the form of rebates. Their apparent goal was to confine tax bill increases to single digits. The “early returns” suggest that did not occur. We should not be surprised; it was practically impossible for the legislature to succeed given the information available at the time. The system is a tangled web of taxing authorities, mandates, credits, caps, abatements, assessments, levies and host of other factors which affect the average citizen’s tax bill. Like the game “whack a mole” sure as you hammer down one target another one pops up.
So what IS the solution? Increasing sales taxes & income taxes while decreasing real estate taxes? Increasing homestead tax credits? Reducing or eliminating unfunded court ordered or legislative mandates? Expanding gaming? Increasing incentives to business to stimulate the State economy? Selling or leasing more State and County assets? Increasing outsourcing? Increasing the tax cap? Expanding moratoriums on public construction? Restructuring local government? Altering citizen expectations and demands of their government? Reducing government services? Some, none, or all of the above? Something else?
Our natural first reaction in crisis is to begin the “blame game” and engage in finger pointing. While this practice may make us feel better, it is counter-productive and offers little in terms of meaningful, lasting solutions. Finger pointing puts people on the defensive and stifles open, honest discussion and serious debate. Such discussion and debate is essential to crafting a solution. We got ourselves into this mess, and together we’re going to need to work our way out.
I think many, if not most agree that our present system is broken. The cost to preserve the present system translates into higher taxes, less-than-acceptable service, and complex government that few tax-paying citizens dare to understand. We’re paying for programs, policies, procedures and patronage that have grown to become ineffective, incomprehensible and obviously expensive.
In his weekly column Rich James chose to share one example from many in our ongoing discussions about what it’s going to take to fix our tax problems once and for all. While we may disagree on its form, we do agree that in the absence of meaningful restructuring of local governance, a lasting solution to our tax crisis is practically impossible. It is no longer possible to fix anything by simply “tweaking” a system which never contemplated the challenges presented by 21st century realities.
Our present approach includes commissioning studies and assembling blue ribbon panels to consider the problem and craft solutions. But as we learned from the Maximus study in Lake County, that approach while commendable is only a beginning. But if the people and their duly elected representatives are not central to the process where will the resolve to make meaningful, lasting change come from? At some point the people have to take ownership. It cannot be a good idea until it is OUR idea. Our founding fathers understood this. The government which serves it citizens is that government which is of, by and for the people.
Our present crisis while dire provides the opportunity for necessary change. Inspired leadership, engaged citizens and an open process will be required if we are to confront the crisis and emerge renewed & revitalized.
As Americans and Hoosiers, we have a proven track record of crafting innovative solutions to serious problems. Once again we need to muster the courage and determination to not just think “out of the box,” but off the page. It’s not just our responsibility, it’s our legacy.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
VALPARAISO Democratic candidate Julia Versau filed for a rare recount Monday of the city's at-large council race.
Ex-builders employee admits theft
VALPARAISO A former office manager with the Porter County Builders Association pleaded guilty Monday to stealing thousands of dollars from the organization.
Three plan to file for Portage Township Board president
PORTAGE Two township residents plan to file and a third is considering entering the race to replace Portage Township Board President Sue Lynch.
Friday, November 16, 2007
"This is not the time to hope for the best from the worst of candidates because it appears that they are the probable winners, No! There is too much at stake, and if we fail to support the candidates who truly support us then we have failed ourselves."
So let's keep our heads on straight here. Huckabee a national unknown is surging in early primary state, putting pressure on Romney to spend a lot more in those states to hold them. Guiliani is already spending big trying to buy his way back to a second place finish so he's still in the fight for Super Tuesday.
I know I'm biased here but what if they all beat each other up, and waste a ton of money, while the voters begin to look at other candidates as possibilities? Yeah, you know I've written a lot here that I think John McCain's numbers are going to start surging.
I understand Mr. Glessner's complaint, and I said the same thing; what in the world did Pat Robertson obtain in return for endorsing a man for President that he doesn't even agree with? I'll be one of the many suggesting that Mr. Robertson reverse that decision and quickly endorse a candidate that does follow his principles and can win the election.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Guiliani might fall big in Iowa, starting a downhill run that shoves Romney on the ballot in November. Bummer eh? Because according to all polls, Romney has no chance of winning the general election so we get Hillary.
Oh where oh where is McCain? The one leader that can rise in the middle and has in the past trascended these ridiculous odds, where a middle conservative can't win the primary, but a far-right conservative can't win the presidency.
I'm sorry but it's not Huckaby. He should leave the race in December and endorse McCain.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Who do you think will run? Who do you think will win?
Some things heard election nite:
- Poporad will try to take on Simms in Primary for State Rep.
- AJ Monroe will get new job and take on Simms for State Rep.
- Jim Snyder will run for north county commissioner
- Dan Whitten looking for houses in Chesterton to run for north county commissioner
- Mike Bucko to announce early for south county commissioner
- Jim Murphy will soon announce for south county commissioner
Have you heard other rumors? Of course we know most of the rumors are floats, to see if there's support out there.
- Guiliani picks up Pat Robertson endorsement
- Romney picks up endorsements from religious conservatives including Bob Jones
- Thompson endorsed by National Right to Life
- McCain endorsed by Sam Brownback
By the way, popular Senator Grassley from Iowa says he won't be endorsing, too close to call.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Welcome to Green Pointe Development. We specialize in leasing, selling,
Monday, November 12, 2007
VALPARAISO | The downtown, the environment and sidewalks will be among the
Becoming more eco-friendly is something the city started with the formation of
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Half Life SourceObama Says He'd Raise Payroll Taxes to Overhaul Social SecurityBloomberg - 1 hour agoBy Julianna Goldman Nov. 11 (Bloomberg) -- Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said he would raise the cap on Social Security payroll taxes to fix what he called the single most important social program in the US Obama said he would be ...
Beware the government official offering "help"
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Voter Intimidation May Plague Election Day 2007
Few Reported Problems, Turnout Appears High on Election Day
Election Reminder Call your party if you need a ride to the polls
How will voters turn out in Muncie?
Monday, November 05, 2007
A bunch of Republicans in Valpo?
A bunch of Dems in Portage?
But, on the other hand, I'd also sure like to see Michael Essany on that Valpo City Council. Not because he is the best guy for the job, he's probably not, but because I'm getting bored with local council races. At least this has caused some excitement.
Friday, November 02, 2007
MAYORAL FORUM IN PORTAGE
Greg Sims - What about Portage?
Enough about Essany!!!!!
With only a few days left till the election, lots of heated debate over who will control council in Valparaiso, and who will win the mayor's office in Portage
PORTAGE Residents of Charlotta Woods subdivision raised issues of drainage, traffic and race during a forum Thursday night concerning rumors about an approved subdivision to their west.
Split verdict in molestation case
VALPARAISO A jury returned with a split verdict Thursday afternoon in the child molestation case against Portage resident James Ross Doane.
PORTER The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore will conduct four controlled burns this fall, a ritual the land undergoes each season at the hands of man, but once occurred normally during the cycle of nature.
Fire death appears to be accidental
PORTER The man who was found dead inside his home following a fire Wednesday morning died of smoke inhalation, an autopsy showed.
No quick solution for Y traffic concerns
PORTAGE There is no short-term solution to deal with increased traffic congestion at the entrance of the Portage Township YMCA on Willowcreek Road.