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ELKHART -- The message to six Elkhart and LaGrange county state legislators was clear: Hold off on making tax caps permanent.
About 50 city, county, library, school, township, chamber of commerce and health officials from Elkhart and LaGrange counties attended a meeting Monday meant to provide the legislative delegation with their respective agendas.
Topping the list was the 1-2-3 tax caps affecting local governments and taxpayers. The Indiana General Assembly, spurred on by Gov. Mitch Daniels, is expected to debate making those tax caps permanent by placing them into the state Constitution.
"If you find out in the future that does not work, you'll have to change the Constitution again," said David Daugherty, president of the Goshen Chamber of Commerce.
While the chamber will oppose any attempts to make the caps constitutionally permanent, he said waiting until 2010 would give the Legislature more time to see their impact and would be more reasonable.
In order for it to become part of the Constitution, one of the requirements is that it has to pass in two consecutive sessions of the General Assembly. A bill passed in 2007. It would have to pass in either 2009 or 2010.
Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman agreed with the delay in the amendment, noting that the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns and the Indiana Association of Counties also concur on that issue "so that we'd better know the consequences."
County Commissioner Mike Yoder said Indiana seems to be the only state that caps the rate -- most states cap based on income. "The horse has left the barn. The train has left the station," he said. "You capped the wrong thing."
Ability to pay is the issue, he said. Now the consequences of the Legislature's actions are unfolding, Yoder added.
Chamber representatives also asked that elements of the government restructuring report compiled by a committee headed by former Gov. Joe Kernan and Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall Shepard be taken one at a time and that cost-benefits be placed on them.
Elkhart County Council President John Letherman said that there must be financial and "improved service reasons" for approving Kernan-Shepard recommendations. "One size will not fit all," he said.
Library consolidation, also part of the Kernan-Shepard report, was addressed, as libraries from Nappanee, Wakarusa, Elkhart, Goshen, Bristol and Middlebury were represented at the meeting.
Linda Yoder of Nappanee said all legislators will have a report by Jan. 1 that offers a proposal for county planning processes for libraries to look at needs individually. However, each process would have a specific time frame and would include looking at performance standards for libraries, she said.
Legislators in attendance also included State Reps. Jackie Walorski, R-Elkhart, Tim Neese, R-Elkhart, and Wes Culver, R-Goshen, and State Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury.