Wednesday, April 01 2009
INDIANAPOLIS — As the final month of this year's legislative session opened this morning, minority Republican members of the Indiana House ramped up their push for a vote on constitutional property tax caps.
While more than 20 House Republicans behind him at a Statehouse news conference signed a petition asking for a vote on the caps this year, Minority Leader Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, called on House Speaker Patrick Bauer to reverse his decision to hold off on the vote until next year.
"The only reason to delay is if you don't want them (the caps) enacted, and one man stands between the caps and a vote," Bosma said of Bauer, D-South Bend.
Responding to a statewide property tax crisis, the Legislature last year capped property taxes at 1 percent for homes, 2 percent for rental property and 3 percent for businesses. They also passed legislation to make the caps permanent by writing them into Indiana's constitution.
To amend the state's constitution, lawmakers would again have to pass that legislation either this year or next year. Either way, it would go to the voters in a statewide referendum in the November 2010 election.
Bosma, Gov. Mitch Daniels and Senate Majority Leader David Long, R-Fort Wayne, want to pass the amendment again this year. They say doing so would protect caps already in state statute from constitutional challenge.
But Bauer, who decides whether a bill receives a vote in the House, says lawmakers should wait until next year. That would give them another year to gauge how the caps affect local governments, and since the amendment wouldn't be in front of voters until November 2010 anyway, waiting an extra year wouldn't slow anything down.
Bosma said House Republicans aren't buying his argument.
"Waiting a year is wrong for Hoosier taxpayers," he said.
Freshman Rep. Ed Clere, R-New Albany, said he campaigned on supporting the constitutional property tax limits and is disappointed the House hasn't voted on them yet.
"I meant what I said and I said what I meant, an elephant's faithful 100 percent," Clere said, channeling Dr. Seuss. "Mr. Speaker, let's keep our promise to taxpayers. Let us vote."
As Republicans have mounted pressure, though, Bauer has appeared no more willing to allow a vote this year. He said recently that those who demand a vote this year "can't tell time."