The third annual
Porter County Retired Teachers Association legislative forum saw less
discussion on school vouchers and state takeovers this year and more on
business tax cuts, economic development, and the gay marriage amendment.
A crowd of about 50
gathered at the Wheeler High School auditorium Saturday morning to hear a
panel consisting of State Reps. Chuck Moseley, D-Portage, and Ed Soliday,
R-Valparaiso, and State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, and Sen. Ed
President Barbara Stroud, a retired teacher of the Duneland Schools, gave
the welcome and introduced moderator and former state representative Ralph
Ayres. Also in attendance was Indiana Retired Teachers Association President
Carol Grieser who traveled from her home in Goshen.
The Assembly passed
its midpoint last week, Ayres said, and House bills are moving to the Senate
to be voted on as Senate bills will be heard in the House.
to public education included one about the working relationship between the
Indiana General Assembly, Indiana Superintendent of Public Education Glenda
Ritz, the State Board of Education and Gov. Mike Pence’s Center for
Education and Career Innovation.
In the months
leading up to the 2014 session, tensions arose among the boards as Ritz
contended that the Governor’s board was attempting to undermine her
Soliday said he
feels that there has been progress and compromises made. He said both sides
have well-meaning people working toward the same goal Ð better educational
opportunities for Hoosier children.
beginning to talk to each other and I hope that’s good for the future,”
Moseley said what
he questions why roughly $1 million of taxpayer money is going to the
salaries of the CECI board members.
“Is it sound fiscal
responsibility to keep going down this road? Somebody’s got to ask what’s
next,” he said.
questioned CECI’s funding since it was a created by Pence under an executive
order and was never legislatively established. The CECI is pooling the funds
and efforts of the State Department of Education and the Department of
Workforce Development, she said.
the workings of the Board of Education and the CECI are being watched
closely and he hopes that continues.
generating the most response from lawmakers was the governor’s proposal to
give tax breaks to businesses by cutting or eliminating personal property
Some on the panel
argued it makes sense to try to be a more competitive state for business but
others feel the risk that local governments will bear the tax burden is too
Elimination of the
business property tax could mean $25 million in cuts to local governments in
Porter County and has been opposed publicly by the Porter County Council and
the Duneland School Board.
Moseley said he is
concerned for the schools largely in TIF districts and believes that taxes
will be shifted to homeowners if the tax breaks are implemented. He feels
there should be a summer study session determine what, if any, the benefits
would be in terms of job creation.
“I think we need to
take a look at this rather than ram this through a short session,” Moseley
Tallian said she
believes all state lawmakers were “aghast” to hear that $1 billion would be
lost for local governments and that is something that neither party wants.
A proposal in the
senate would eliminate the tax for businesses with less than $25,000 of
equipment, which would soften the blow to local governments.
that he didn’t think anyone was in favor of harming local government, but he
believes Indiana is in a “global jobs war.”
has a 6.9 unemployment rate, lower than the national average, and the state
is more job friendly, one way to be more competitive is lowering the
corporate income tax, Charbonneau said. Senate Bill 1 proposes to lower
Indiana’s corporate income tax from 6.5 percent to 4.9 by 2019.
tax funding for the state and local governments may be the winners if more
jobs come in as a result of the tax cuts, Charbonneau said.
Soliday said if the
entire business property tax was wiped out, the legislature would have to
find a way to offset the costs to the local governments. However, he said
that there have been proposals to give counties the option of eliminating
the tax if they believe it can benefit them.
“If this can help
you, you can use it. This is a local empowerment bill,” Soliday said.
Ayres said a number
of the questions submitted were about the divisive House Joint Resolution 3,
defining marriage as between a man and a woman, which has passed out of the
House and moved to the Senate where it will be heard early this week.
Soliday said it’s
played out in the media that this is the only issue that matters in the
Assembly this year when only 17 percent of Indiana residents feel it is a
major issue. He said he personally has spent less than 1 percent of his time
on the subject, keeping his focus on his role as Transportation Committee
Soliday voted in
favor of the amendment but also voted to remove the second sentence that
would have prohibited state recognized civil unions or domestic
partnerships. He said it is likely the U.S. Supreme Court will decide the
issue of gay marriage in the next five years as our culture as changing.
Moseley and Tallian
both said they both would vote “no” on the amendment.
Tallian said she
would never vote for an amendment to the state constitution that would take
away people’s rights.
Charbonneau said he
has yet to make his decision and the bill will be heard this week by one of
his Senate committees.
that the governor does not have the power to veto a constitutional
At other points in
the forum, all legislators were applauded by the audience for their support
of the HB 1074 to provide a 13th check for members of the Indiana state
teachers’ retirement fund.
Tallian became a
sponsor of the bill in the Senate.
The panel also
heard questions on whether the Valparaiso School Board should be appointed
or elected and if elected state officials should be given drug tests.
everyone for attending and mentioned that there will be another legislative
forum hosted by the Dunes Shore District Council of the Indiana State
Teachers Association featuring state lawmakers representing Lake, Porter and
LaPorte counties at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 22, at South Central High
School in LaPorte County.