Posted on

Restocking the ‘put-take’ pond

When I lived in Georgia and did a lot of backpacking and camping, I found that many state parks there had ponds for recreational fishing next to camping areas that were called “put-take” ponds.
In the spring, fish were “put in” the pond for fishermen to “take out” of the pond.
Fishing was good in the spring. Even small children could land a whopper.
But, as the summer progressed and the fish were caught, it didn’t matter how long you fished, what kind of bait you used or how good a fisherman you were, you weren’t going to catch any fish because the pond was empty.
It’s a fact of life. You can’t take out what isn’t there. It would be next spring before the pond would be restocked with fish.
In Indiana, the budget “put-take” pond is being emptied.
With less than one month remaining in this fiscal year, the state has collected $289 million less in tax revenue than had been expected.
In May alone, reports are that the tax revenue collected was $110 million less than what lawmakers had hoped for, leaving them to wonder if new tax increases are now needed to make ends meet.
According to state budget director Betty Cockrum, by month’s end the state will have plowed through its general fund and dipped into its rainy day fund leaving only half the amount of money needed to meet its financial obligations.
In Indiana this year, corporate taxes were down 20-percent and individual Hoosier income taxes were down 11 percent. This caused legislators to look at raising the taxes on cigarettes and casino gambling to make up for the shortfalls.
Consideration is also being given to raising sales taxes a penny, to six percent, to cover a 20 percent cut in property taxes for homeowners and creating a new business tax to pay for a corporate property-tax cut.
Even with all this dismal fiscal information being published daily, more and more fishermen are casting their lines into the budget “put-take” pond expecting to walk away with a trophy catch.
Recent information from the U.S. Census Bureau says Indiana ranked 38th in the nation in the amount of state taxes paid per capita last year. The average Hoosier taxpayer paid $1,669, or about 6.1 percent of his or her earnings (this number includes only state imposed taxes), while in Connecticut, the most taxed state, taxpayers paid $3,092 each.
Indiana took in $10.2 billion last year. Indiana is the 14th most populous state with 6.1 million residents.
Bill Styring, a former state budget analyst, said the cost of living in Indiana is about 94 percent of the national average, “so our government spending dollars go further.”
Over the years, he said, he has not detected “much if any sentiment” among the general public in Indiana to pay more taxes in hopes of getting more and better government services.
Maybe raising each taxpayer’s bill a little isn’t so bad. A small percentage increase of one or two tenths of a percent, say from 6.1 to 6.2 or 6.3 percent, would help keep the state solvent and still keep Hoosiers’ taxbills below the national average of 6.5 percent.
This slight increase in taxes, possibly a couple dollars a week each, would bring in more money which lawmakers could use to restock the state budget “put-take” pond. If there are about a million taxpayers in the state, that slight increase could bring in as much as an extra $200 million to the state coffers.
Taxes are how we pay for the governmental services we receive. I wouldn’t mind paying a couple hundred dollars more a year in state taxes to gain an improvement in state goverment services and to help balance the state budget.
All in all, the fact still remains, you can’t take out what you don’t put in.