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Funds for special session would be well spent, if …

We believe that the special session of the Indiana General Assembly now scheduled for May 14 will be critical to the future of Indiana and its children. It can be well worth the cost. But, only if the legislative leadership and the governor reach agreement on a solution and conclude their work as quickly as possible.
Each day of a special session will cost $20,000 and, with a maximum meeting time of 30 days, the potential cost is $600,000. Knowing that state funding delays and cuts already in place for Indiana’s public schools will total approximately $450 million by the end of the biennium, if no further cuts or delays are necessary, spending a maximum of $.6 million to approve a solution seems to make sense.
But, this special session has to be about more than finding a way to plug the deficit.
Our state leaders have to address the continued loss of Indiana jobs. The loss of more than 100,000 manufacturing jobs over the past two years should be alarming to every working adult and every parent of a soon-to-be-graduated high school student. Our state’s disadvantage in attempting to attract high-tech, high-skill businesses due to our tax structure virtually guarantees that the past record of our highest trained college graduates leaving the state will continue. This continuing brain drain means that our sons and daughters, after increasing their own academic achievement through our much trumpeted school accountability plans and successes, will earn associate and bachelor degrees only to find jobs to use their skills non-existent in the Hoosier state.
We believe that it is the best interests of every parent, grandparent, business owner, employee and property tax payer to see Indiana’s tax structure revamped.
If business is to grow in Indiana, Indiana must develop a tax system that makes it possible for businesses to thrive here. Every fiscal and tax expert seems to agree that tax restructuring is essential to desired and necessary business growth.
Many legislators worked long and hard during the 2002 Indiana General Assembly to find the right tax structure. They just couldn’t get it done. For those who follow the legislature’s work, these are really bright and committed people. Indiana is fortunate to have them as legislators. But, they are duty-bound to serve the public that elected them. The House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee have a tremendous challenge ahead of them. They deserve our support as they prepare to complete this important work.
We ask that Indiana’s citizens think carefully about the real economic and financial issues facing the legislature. Without tax restructuring, our economy cannot thrive. The inventory tax is hated by every business. Moving or expanding their businesses in other states permits them to avoid this tax. Homeowners cannot accept the kind of property tax increases coming in the near future as a result of reassessment and, therefore, some burden must be removed from the property tax. Without significant change in our tax structure, every business spokesperson seems certain that economic growth will be minimal and the future of our state is at risk.
Without some increases in state revenue, the one-time stop-gap measures used thus far to avoid serious cuts to school programs and other state services will become real and deeper cuts in the future. As time passes and revenues continue to come in below the state’s already lowered revenue estimates, the hole just gets deeper. All seem to agree that tax increases will be required in 2003. Many seem to understand that if tax restructuring happens now, the rate of tax increase can be less than that required in 2003, and, if done well, the tax restructuring can be a helpful tool in our economic recovery and future job growth.
We urge parents, grandparents, business owners and property tax payers to appreciate the challenges facing our governor and legislators. The consequences, if we ask them to do nothing, are severe.
The special session’s price tag of up to $600,000 could be a bargain if the result is a tax system that grows our economy, avoids large property tax increases and encourages business to create the jobs that we all want for our working adults and our young people. Please contact the governor and your legislators and ask that they find the best solutions to the tax restructuring and budget deficit issues and put them in place now.
This was written by Frank Bush, executive director, Indiana School Boards Association; Roger Thornton, executive director, Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents; and Dennis Costerison, executive director, Indiana Association of School Business Officials.