I’ll have to admit, as mayor of an Indiana city, I was very disappointed with the results of the Indiana General Assembly’s most recent session.
The disregard of the financial health of cities and towns is the perfect example of disconnect. Before I get too deep into my opinion, I must admit that our state representatives, Dave Wolkins and Rebecca Kubacki, and State Senator Ryan Mishler showed concern and were responsive to the needs of the city. Unfortunately, they had to contend with state political agendas and battle regionalism along the way.
The initial step toward complete elimination of the business personal property tax was signed into law last week. Those involved were all smiles. The legislators, however, indicated no openness to state-guaranteed replacement of lost revenue for cities. This, despite what I heard the governor say firsthand when we met with a group of Indiana mayors. Our city will also have little say in the “local decision” to eliminate the tax. That provision only passes the buck to the locals to replace revenue on the backs of wage earners and homeowners, if they make the “local decision” to eliminate the business personal property tax.
The decision to create a summer study group was a post-script to the legislation.   I would have studied the future impact and unintended consequences of such a far-reaching decision before having a signing party. A reminder of the negative impact on local revenue that has far exceeded initial forecasts, as a result of property tax caps, should have been lessons learned. Yet the lost revenue and source of replacement revenue is still to be determined.
Second, how can the assembly put into law legislation that applies to everyone in the state except Indianapolis? In this most recent session, the state legislature decided that tax increment finance districts established before 1995 everywhere in Indiana would expire in 2025 except the Indianapolis downtown TIF district.
Indianapolis uses its downtown TIF district to fund downtown infrastructure.  Safe and adequate roadways, sanitary and storm sewers, water, data connectivity, police and fire protection, bike and pedestrian networks are all fundamental to the vitality of our central cities.  Projects flourish when private developers partner with cities to provide that necessary infrastructure.
With the support of TIF funding, Indianapolis has developed an enviable track record of downtown amenities that Hoosiers everywhere, including myself, are very proud of. It makes their city a great place to live and visit. The Cultural Trail, Fountain Square/Mass Avenue redevelopment projects, Circle Center Shopping Mall, hotels and stadiums and many neighborhood initiatives are examples of improvements that have given Indianapolis a shining star on the map of livability.
Evidently, what’s good for Indianapolis is not good for the rest of us. Downtowns all over Indiana are looking to develop unique local amenities that create identity and character. That is why we live where we do and how we can be attractive to others.
Taking away a critical funding source (TIF revenue) for our downtown improvements while allowing Indianapolis to continue its successful use of TIF revenue is ludicrous! Indianapolis is a shining example of how well it works! We want it to continue to work in Warsaw! Why should everyone else be excluded? The final House vote was 27-20. That would indicate that those outside Marion County probably felt the same way.
I suppose, though, that I should feel good that one can walk down the steps of the State Capital Building and see a bustling, vibrant downtown Indianapolis.