Chesterton Tribune



Legislative preview: Rep. Moseley says citizens and governments should be wary of Pence tax plan

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State Representative Chuck Moseley, D-Portage, said he is counting the number of winners and losers in Gov. Mike Pence’s proposal to do away with taxes assessed on personal property and equipment for businesses, and right now the scales are far from balanced.

Moseley visited the Chesterton Tribune last week to discuss his expectations for the upcoming Indiana General Assembly. He said he is calling on citizens to ask themselves how the tax reform will impact them if the state, schools and local governments fail to find alternative funding sources.

Pence rolled out his 2014 road map earlier this month highlighting the elimination of business personal property tax as a way to increase private sector employment the same way some other states do in order to compete for jobs. But the tax is collected by counties, not the state, and benefits county governments, townships, local schools, fire departments, airports and libraries.

“What is the tradeoff going to be here? We need to make sure that those services can be provided,” said Moseley.

According to recent estimates by the County Treasurer’s office, Porter County would lose $25 million or more of its tax revenue, with schools taking the biggest hit.

At a recent Duneland School Board meeting, officials said that the school district’s total assessed valuation could drop by about 25 percent and more than $1 million would be lost in the schools’ referendum fund.

Porter County government could expect about a $5 million drop.

Overall, the tax cut would be a $1 billion hit to all local governments and schools statewide.

Moseley is not saying the sky is falling, as the final details for the plan have not been revealed, but the changes are something local officials and residents should keep their eyes on, he said.

Moseley said he is most concerned about what the impact will be on taxpayers. He looks at this not as a tax cut but as a shift of the tax burden to workers who will have to make up for the loss of revenue.

Moseley said that residential homeowners will be pushed toward the 1 percent tax cap as their tax rates go up and the same will come later for retail and agriculture properties capped at 2 percent and commercial and small business at 3 percent.

Pence has suggested that the business tax be phased out over a few years and encouraged legislators in the General Assembly to debate the issue to find a way that does not harm local governments.

Moseley said he and his colleagues in the Statehouse have yet to see any details on how the phase out could be done without putting the burden on county and municipal governments, which is why he hasn’t decided yet whether or not he’d support it.

Moseley said the governor has alluded to the idea that the counties have the option to decide to initiate or raise income taxes to make up for the revenue lost.

Moseley said he is not in favor of any measure that would discourage consumers from spending money in their communities, which would end up hurting small businesses.

“You’re going to have to buy a lot less hamburgers. You’re going to run your tires a little bit longer,” he said. “We need to be more mindful. It’s time to stop shifting the burden onto the backs of hard working citizens.”

There is also talk about letting individual counties have the decision of whether or not to eliminate the business personal property tax, but Moseley said in his eyes that would be creating “a backdoor tax abatement” and he doesn’t like the idea of counties competing against each other.

The only winners he sees in the deal are the large scale manufacturing centers and other facilities that house millions of dollars of personal property and equipment, like hospitals, with nothing for the small business owner.

“We need to start asking is this a good or a bad deal. What I want is for people to start thinking about what could happen, because these concerns are not far-fetched. I’m a little hesitant to buy into something without solid commitment. We need to see a detailed plan from the governor,” he said.

Assembly begins Jan. 6

Moseley will continue to serve on the Employment, Labor and Pensions committee in the General Assembly which will begin on Monday, Jan. 6. His role there takes up most of his time as a representative, he said. He will also continue to serve on the Veteran Affairs and Public Safety committee.

Moseley said he is drafting a number of bills. One would be to restore funding to the Department of Workforce Development for worker training programs. Another would be for County Treasurers to have more opportunity to invest County assets for longer periods of time and have better interest rates, similar to Major Moves money.

He said he will also be working with legislators across the aisle on legislation regarding the Indiana Public Retirement System. Moseley said he is against the plan of the INPRS to privatize annuity payments for retired government employees. Taking away the state-managed annuity would result in officials having no control over changes to fees or interest, he said.

The Assembly this year has “serious” issues before it that legislators should concentrate on, particularly those related to growing Indiana’s economy, Moseley said. He advised there will be pressure from lobbying groups to talk about social issues and said millions of dollars are being poured into the gay marriage debate.

Moseley said finding jobs for Hoosiers is a larger priority for him than to say who can get married.


Posted 12/26/2013