State Rep. Ed
Soliday, R-Valparaiso, said his bill to bring clarity to the roles of a
county’s executive and fiscal bodies when it comes to the economic
development income tax passed the Indiana House of Representatives with a
97-0 vote on Monday.
House Bill 1077
clarifies earlier legislation of how counties or municipalities can
authorize and use CEDIT funds, removing doubt that a fiscal body cannot
allocate or transfer CEDIT without consent of the executive body.
In other words,
the Porter County Council has to work with the Board of Commissioners; the
Commissioners may propose a project for CEDIT fund use and the Council
decides whether to fund the proposal.
The bill is will
be heard by the Indiana Senate, Soliday said. He is confident the bill will
make it to the governor’s desk given its strong bipartisan support. Those
who have also helped champion the bill include state Sens. Karen Tallian,
D-Ogden Dunes, and Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso.
Soliday said he
introduced the bill to head off any chance of a legal battle between the
Council and the Commissioner boards. Some Council members questioned if the
previous law gave them authority to transfer CEDIT monies to the County’s
general fund on their own.
Soliday said the
intent of the CEDIT law has always been to provide a system of checks and
“It didn’t make
sense for both sides to pay for a lawsuit,” he said.
President Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, said it was not the Council’s intention to
challenge the law.
“We never tried
to sue anybody. Our intention has always been we have priorities and we plan
on funding those priorities,” Rivas said.
The issue of
using CEDIT for general operations has not come up prior to this year, but
the Council has learned that its property tax revenues had dropped
considerably, by about $10 million, due to the state’s tax caps while
expenses to run government have gone up.
“We never had to
use (CEDIT) to govern, but the time has come to fund our basic operations
off our income tax,” Rivas said.
hanging over the heads of County officials include a way to open and staff
the third pod at the Porter County Jail and a $2 million gap in the budget
for Enhanced 911, Rivas said.
A bill has been
introduced in the Indiana Statehouse that would allow counties to raise
CEDIT taxes by one percent for funding E-911 centers, but Rivas said he is
adamant that as Council president he would never call for an increase in
He added that he
has heard from lawmakers that funding from the state level would come for
E-911 but he “hasn’t seen anything yet.”
Since the start
of this year, communication between the Commissioners and Council has
improved and both have agreed that CEDIT will need to be prioritized.
President John Evans, R-North, said he has agreed to write a whole new plan
for CEDIT with priorities in mind but he hopes there will be some left over
to use for other things such as road projects and drainage improvements. He
said miscellaneous revenues that have been dormant will be utilized.
He and fellow
Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney, D-South, both applauded the state for
supporting HB 1077.
“I’m so glad it
is being clarified and quickly before it costs us in a lawsuit,” Blaney
Evans added that
it is clear in state lawmaker’s minds the statute had the powers of the two
nobody saw it as an issue,” Evans said and added that he hopes the Council
will do their job as the statute dictates.
Jim Biggs, R-1st, said he is in support of bills that define checks and
balances regarding local government but made a case for taking care of
priorities first. “I also support the ideology that county government should
first spend its available resources on those things which we are statutorily
responsible for maintaining and lastly on those matters which we are not,”
discussions will continue. “The bill confirmed that there had to be
cooperation and we plan on having that cooperation with the Commissioners,”