Dale Brewer: Bringing balance to Statehouse
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Karen Tallian: Environment, worker rights are top priorities
By VICKI URBANIK
The one issue that plunged Karen Tallian in the spotlight shortly after she
took public office is one that she doesn’t spend too much time rehashing.
Instead of focusing on the Indiana Toll Road lease and why she feels it was
wrong, Tallian launched into her legislative priorities that focus largely
on enhanced environmental protection and worker laws.
An attorney who lives in Ogden Dunes, Tallian acknowledged that she took a
“loud” position against the 75-year Toll Road lease, but discounts the
criticism from her opponent, Dale Brewer, that she doesn’t work in a
bipartisan manner. She notes that she co-authored bills with several
Republican lawmakers, including teaming up with Sen. Beverly Gard to get a
mercury switch recovery bill and with Rep. Ralph Ayres and Sen. Vic Heinold
on a methadone treatment bill.
Partisan or not, though, she remains firmly opposed to the Toll Road lease.
“I won’t apologize for that,” she said. She called the schism between
Republicans and Democrats on the Toll Road issue a “basic, fundamental
difference in our approach” as to how government ought to run.
She and other Democrats favored issuing bonds to help fund Gov. Mitch
Daniels’ 10-year transportation plan known as Major Moves. She points out
that that’s what the Spanish-Australian consortium did -- borrow funds in
order to put up the $3.85 billion for the Toll Road. She remains opposed to
Daniels’ other efforts at privatization, citing the state’s contract for
prison food services and the pending plan to privatize the state’s Family
and Social Service Administration.
“Generally, I find the administration’s efforts to privatize so many things
are just appalling,” Tallian said.
Before she was selected by a Democrat caucus to fill the vacancy created by
the resignation of former state senator Rose Ann Antich-Carr, Tallian served
as attorney to the Porter County Plan Commission, the Portage Township
Trustee, and the Portage Fire Department Merit Board. She is a former
president of the Portage Parks and Recreation Foundation and the Porter
County League of Women Voters and served on the state board of the LWV. A
graduate of the University of Chicago and the Valparaiso University School
of Law, Tallian is a partner in the Eberhard & Gastineau law firm in
When asked to respond to Brewer’s stinging criticism of her for three years
of delayed property taxes on her Ogden Dunes home, Tallian said the issue
boils down to a mistake that she got corrected.
Tallian said her mortgage company does not handle escrow payments, so every
time she made her house payment, she was credited even though she actually
fell behind in her taxes. She said that it took about two years for the
payments to accumulate and that when she went to the county treasurer’s
office to review her tax bills, she realized that the problem dated back to
the first payment she made after she bought her house. She ended up paying
the back taxes and late fees.
“It was an error. I fixed it.” she said.
But she also said she believes the non-payment of taxes is a non-issue, and
that she’s fully aware of what happens when tax money isn’t there; she
pointed out that she personally was affected by the county’s tax woes, when
she didn’t get paid for her work representing the plan commission for five
months after she submitted her claim.
“I understand very well the principle that people have to pay their taxes,”
Brewer also criticized Tallian’s legislative mailings that Brewer contends
are politically oriented though taxpayer funded. “I disagree with her,”
Tallian said, adding that she was careful to send out her official mailings
only through August, and not later, so that they would not intertwine with
the campaign season.
Tallian said legislators are allowed to have certain formats for their
mailings, and that the mailings Brewer cited were in the standard format
used by other lawmakers. As for content, Tallian said she tried to keep the
language informational and that the nature of all such mailings is to inform
the public what the lawmaker has done and what they intend to do. She added
that she has also sent out campaign-funded mailings as well.
Brewer also took Tallian to task for voting for the new fireworks law
without a provision for home rule. To the contrary, Tallian said she
actively tried to get a home rule provision added in the bill, but other
lawmakers refused. Her legal opinion, however, is that local communities
still have the power to enact more restrictive rules if they desire. She
prepared a model ordinance and distributed it to local communities
interested in adopting such a rule.
Tallian said the state’s 2 percent property tax cap in the Circuit Breaker
legislation was initially a “stop gap measure” intended to give Lake County
homeowners relief from the latest reassessment. But, she said, the bill that
extended the cap got passed in the heat of the Legislature when few people
had time to analyze its consequences despite the fact that it was an
“extremely important” bill. The 2 percent legislation points to the need for
a new way to fund government, she said.
“We rely way too heavily on property taxes to fund government,” Tallian
said, saying that she would prefer a revamp of the income tax system. She
called the property tax system a way to tax people based on “paper profits”:
One’s assessed value increases over time, but the homeowner doesn’t actually
derive benefits from the higher value. She also said that some other states
rely only on income taxes and don’t have property taxes.
Tallian is not, however, in support of the alternative called Hometown
Matters that would allow counties, cities and towns the ability to leverage
new taxes. She said she believes strongly that issues like education and
health care are the responsibility of the state government, and that the
funding, or the funding mechanism, should come from the state and uniformly
“We can’t simply put the burden of raising taxes on our local county
councils,” she said, adding that to expect local officials to impose new
taxes to fund schools and the like will only create local competition and
“Funding education is the responsiblity of everyone,” she said, raising the
specter that local tax decisions could differ from one community to the
next, resulting in different burdens on taxpayers in different school
On the topic of education, Tallian joined other Senate Democrats in
proposing the “Smart Start” plan, including optional full-day kindergarten
and early literacy. She said she has told teacher groups that she is not an
educator and as such won’t dictate to them regarding educational
initiatives. But she did call for an end to the protracted debates over when
the state should administer the ISTEP tests.
State Park Hotel, BMV
When the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Director Kyle Hupfer
proposed a beachfront hotel in the Indiana Dunes State Park, Tallian
questioned the statute that Hupfer cited that he said gave him the authority
to pursue the plan. She remains skeptical of the legalities, citing the
conflicting statutes regarding the state’s authority to enter into a
privatized arrangement for a hotel in the state park.
“I would like to encourage tourism in our area. I just don’t think that
means we should have a hotel on our beach,” she said.
She is also in opposition to Daniels’ decision to close license branches,
including Chesterton’s. “That was typical of the Daniels’ administration’s
propensity to do things despite what people think,” she said.
She also noted that Daniels closed one of the state’s most heavily used
license branches -- the one in Gary. She called this closure appalling and
said there is “no excuse” for it. At about the same time that the license
branches were closed, Tallian said the state’s photo ID law took effect,
meaning that the state was scaling back a government service as the same it
was in effect forcing people to use that very service more. She said the
reports she has received about the BMV’s consolidation show continued
problems. “At no time have we heard reports that things are getting better,”
Tallian cites environmental protection as one of her top priorities. She has
been appointed to two legislative environmental committees, which she said
has placed her in a good position to work on environmental related bills.
Her focus is on Lake Michigan and legislative efforts that would protect
against diversion of Great Lakes water and water level protections for the
Port of Indiana.
“I want to make sure we keep our lake clean, free of poisons and invasive
species. We need to be the stewards of that,” she said.
Work issues are also a top priority. She and other Senate Democrats intend
to propose a hike in the state’s minimum wage that would raise it by about
$2 over a two-year period. She strongly disagrees with the argument that a
hike in the minimum wage would hurt job creation, saying that studies have
repeatedly shown the exact opposite. But whenever a wage hike is proposed,
she said opponents turn to the scare tactic of lost jobs, but the reality is
that more jobs end up created, possibly, she said, because of consumers’
increased purchasing power.
She is also calling for cost of living adjustments in worker compensation,
saying that the state’s worker comp benefits are now “pitifully in the
bottom 10 of the nation.” The impact on businesses might be increased
insurance costs, but the flipside is the incentive for safer working
She and other members of the Senate Democratic caucus also intend to
introduce a universal health insurance program aimed at providing coverage
for the working poor who are uninsured. “The bottom line is we have way too
many people in the state uninsured,” she said.
She has also announced plans for legislation to regulate utility deposit
fees, by requiring utilities to limit connection and re-connection fees to
their actual costs, rather than the current system in which residential
deposits and reconnections are larger than the actual costs.
Abortion, Gay Marriage
On the topic of abortion, Tallian said one of the best expressions she has
heard about abortion came from U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton, who said
abortion should be “safe, legal and rare.” Tallian said she would never vote
to outlaw abortion under all circumstances, as some people want. On the
other hand, she said she understands the need for restrictions, such as
parental notification laws.
On the topic of a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage,
Tallian said she believes that amendments to the constitution should be
“extemely rare” and that a ban on gay marriage in her mind is not an issue
that rises to the level of one requiring a constitutional amendment. But
Tallian also said she is not one to focus on highly divisive issues. She
said she prefers instead to work with people who might disagree with her on
select, hot-button topics in order to find “common ground” on the 95 percent
of the other issues that dominate the Indiana Legislature.
Dale Brewer Bringing balance to the Statehouse
By VICKI URBANIK
Most candidates running for public office list background and qualifications
as the reason why they should be elected. Republican Dale Brewer of Porter
is no exception, but she gives voters a few other reasons why she should get
their vote for 4th District State Senate.
Because the Senate is likely to remain Republican-controlled after the
November elections, Brewer said she can get legislation passed. “My opponent
can’t. If she authors a bill, she’s not going to get anywhere.”
Brewer also said she would bring geographic balance for Porter County to the
Indiana Statehouse. Regardless of who is elected in other state races,
Porter County voters will have someone from Portage and the Valparaiso area
representing them in the House, and someone form south county representing
them in the Senate.
“We don’t have anyone from Duneland,” she said, noting that long-time
Chesterton representative Ralph Ayres is not running this year. With a
Brewer victory, she said, “our whole county would be represented. To me,
that makes a lot of sense.”
Now in her second and final term as Porter County Clerk, Brewer said that of
the two candidates, she is the only one who has a well-rounded knowledge of
local government, its needs, and the impact of new laws enacted by the
General Assembly. “I work on legislative issues all the time as clerk,” she
said. Brewer started working for the county government part-time in 1985 in
the assessor’s office, before moving to the auditor’s office where she was
quickly named executive deputy. She is now president-elect of the Indiana
Clerk’s Association and is a member of the Community Action Drug Coalition,
the Mayor’s Commission on Domestic Violence, and assorted other committees
involving county clerks and election boards.
She said this is the third time party officials have asked her to make a run
for state senator.
“I can get things done. I can build consensus. I do it all the time,” Brewer
Tallian and Taxes
“I pay my taxes,” Brewer said.
Brewer blasted Democrat incumbent Karen Tallian for three years of
delinquent property taxes on her Ogden Dunes home that temporarily placed
Tallian’s home on the county’s tax sale list. Tallian said the matter
amounted to a mistake involving her mortgage company, and that she corrected
it once she determined what the error involved.
Brewer doesn’t buy it. She called Tallian’s late tax payment a “deliberate
neglect” of her responsibilities, both as a taxpayer and as a public
official entrusted to make decisions on taxes; she said she could see one
late payment, but not three.
“When she doesn’t pay her tax bill, who doesn’t get the money?” Brewer said,
citing towns, libraries, schools, and “our children.”
“Who takes the burden? All other taxpayers,” she said.
Brewer said by attributing the matter to an error, Tallian is essentially
saying that she should be trusted to spend taxpayers’ money but shouldn’t be
held accountable to pay her own taxes. “It’s kind of like a slap in the
face,” she said.
Brewer further took Tallian to task for what she termed an abuse of her
franking privileges -- taxpayer-funded mailings -- that she said were
“blatantly political.” Brewer pledged that if elected, she would not put out
any legislative-related mailings after August 1 unless paid for through
Brewer further faulted Tallian for her vote on the new fireworks law since
it did not include a provision that would allow local entities to make their
own more restrictive rules. “I really think you ought to know what you are
voting for before you vote,” Brewer said.
Brewer had plenty of good things to say about the Indiana Toll Road lease:
The proceeds have so far generated $48 million in interest that can be used
for such things as health care for the uninsured; the proceeds have created
jobs and economic development, including a $250 million worth of work on the
Toll Road; the funds shored up the Regional Development Authority; and the
proceeds paid off the Toll Road bonds and paid back the borrowed funds from
the teacher’s pension fund.
And, Brewer cited the millions in payments to counties, cities and towns. “I
haven’t seen anybody turn down the money,” she said.
The Toll Road lease made good economic sense for the state and the region,
Brewer said, “whether people want to realize it or not.” Despite all her
positive comments, Brewer said she can’t say for certain that, had she been
in office, she would have voted for the bill that cleared the way for the
lease. But instead of flat out opposing it, she said she definitely would
have looked for “compromise and concession” if she had concerns.
Brewer added that by this year, the state had paid down only $80 million of
$280 million worth of bonds issued to build the Toll Road. It would have
taken the state another 130 years to pay off those bonds, she said. “Guess
what? The Toll Road is paid off. And we still have money in our pockets to
Now that the road is leased, Brewer said it will be important that state
legislators are “good custodians” of the money, and to make sure that the
proceeds are not pilfered away except for road projects as intended.
State Park Hotel, BMV
Brewer doesn’t support the Daniels administration on two other issues: the
hotel in the Indiana Dunes State Park and the closure of the Chesterton
She said she doesn’t think there’s room in the state park for a hotel. “They
have a beautiful campgroud. That’s our hotel,” she said. She also said in
order for her to justify a state park hotel, all the other hotels in the
area would have to operating at full occupancy all the time. But in that
absence of that, a park hotel would take up land meant for the public.
“Isn’t that the ides of a state park -- to give access to the public?” she
As for the BMV, Brewer said she would propose legislation to reopen license
branches in growing communities, such as Chesterton. Brewer said she can
understand the administration’s need to cut costs, but that growing
communities like Chesterton will eventually need a license branch. At the
very least, she said, the state could set up kiosks with limited BMV
services in different locations so that people would have a more convenient
way to renew their license.
Brewer lists as her number one priority a tax credit for textbook rental
fees, with the goal of eventually phasing out of the fees. “I don’t know how
parents can afford book rental,” she said of the costs, particularly for
families with multiple children.
She also called for changing the funding formula for fast-growing school
corporations like Duneland Schools; the formula should be based on the
proportion that a school is growing, not a flat 250-student increase per
year. She called teachers and other school staff the nurturers of children
for a better part of the day and questioned why anyone wouldn’t want to see
that children are taken care of properly. “What’s the priority? I think they
are,” she said of children.
She also called for increased state funding for teacher in-service days so
that they can keep up with requirements imposed by the No Child Left Behind
Act. She went a step further by saying that federal lawmakers should be
contacted to see if federal funds can be provided for this purpose.
Brewer also called for expanding the state’s health insurance program for
poor children, dubbed CHIP, to include services provided in other states.
The CHIP program is good, she said, “to a point.” In this part of the state,
many people take their children to Chicago hospitals for care, but CHIP only
covers in-state care. “Common sense has got to be brought in here,” she
said, noting that in this part of the state, Chicago is much closer than
Brewer supports a state measure that would require local government to
institute zero-based budgeting as the first step in reforming the property
tax system. “What we have now is not working. That ought to be apparent,”
Under the state’s current system for local taxation, local government
budgets get to increase a certain amount every year. But Brewer said there
is nothing that says that local government should be entitled to an increase
every year, and that if required to start their budgeting process from
scratch, and justifying the needs line item by line item, many local budgets
may not need an increase every year.
She said she would not support repealing the state’s Circuit Breaker tax
cap, saying that there seems to be a “panic happening” about the
legislation’s impact on local budgets before anyone knows for sure if there
will be budget cuts and if so, how severe.
She expressed some support for Hometown Matters proposal, which would allow
communities to impose a variety of new taxes as an alternative to property
taxes. She said the people who are most affected by local government ought
to have a say in how their government services are financed.
When asked what voters can expect from her on abortion-related bills, Brewer
said only: “I’m a pro-life person.” While she is conservative on some
issues, and liberal on others, Brewer said voters can expect her to take
anti abortion votes.
On the issue of a constitutional amendment barring gay marriage, Brewer said
she believes “we ought to stay out of people’s bedrooms.” On the other hand,
she also said she believes that marriage should be only between a man and a
woman and that if a vote were taken on a constitutional amendment to that
effect, she would vote in favor.