Lawmakers talk taxes, education, mo-peds at Elkhart, Goshen gatherings
Posted: 01/26/2013 at 5:00 pm
By: Tim Vandenack
Click here to view in a gallery.
Indiana State Representative Tim Neese, right, answers a questions as Rep. Tim Wesco, left, listens during a Third House meeting at the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013. Nearly 50 residents gathered to hear from their lawmakers and to ask questions of them. (Truth Photo By Jennifer Shephard)
Indiana State Senator Carlin Yoder responds to a question during a Third House meeting at the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013. Nearly 50 residents gathered to hear from their lawmakers and to ask questions of them. (Truth Photo By Jennifer Shephard)
Indiana State Rep. Tim Neese responds to a question during a Third House meeting at the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013. Nearly 50 residents gathered to hear from their lawmakers and to ask questions of them. (Truth Photo By Jennifer Shephard)
Indiana State Senator Joe Zakas, left, responds to a question during a Third House meeting at the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013. Nearly 50 residents gathered to hear from their lawmakers and to ask questions of them. Indiana State Rep. Tim Wesco is at right. (Truth Photo By Jennifer Shephard)
Timothy Wesco Republican, District 21 Indiana House of Representatives Mishawaka (Truth Photo By Jennifer Shephard)
Tim Neese (Truth Photo By Jennifer Shephard)
State Sen. Carlin Yoder (R-Middlebury) (Photo Supplied)
Joe Zakas (Photo Supplied)
Wes Culver (Photo Supplied)
Rebecca Kubacki State Rep., District 22 (Photo Supplied)
“Really this is where the inside-political-game stuff begins,” Indiana Rep. Tim Wesco, R-Osceola, said Saturday at a gathering of state lawmakers representing Elkhart County.
Indiana’s state senators and representatives, between them, submitted around 1,230 bills for consideration this session, which kicked off Jan. 7. They’re typically assigned to committees, and that’s where efforts really begin to sort out what gets serious consideration and what falls by the wayside.
One certain focus will be House Bill 1, the biennial state budget plan for fiscal years 2014 and 2015. Members of Elkhart County’s delegation to Indianapolis, speaking at separate gatherings Saturday at the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce and the Goshen Chamber of Commerce, pointed to several other topics, too:
@$ID/NormalParagraphStyle:• Local income taxes: Elkhart County leaders have long grumbled that income taxes pulled from local workers’ wages don’t always make their way back here after they’re sent to state revenue officials in Indianapolis, shortchanging local government. Rep. Wes Culver, R-Goshen, has co-authored a proposal, H.B. 1479, that would remedy that, requiring the state to better track the incoming funds and distribute them all back to the pertinent counties. The measure, he said, is “gaining momentum.”
• School funding: Lawmakers are mulling an increase in funding for early childhood education, before kindergarten, but Culver’s leery about launching new programs that will require ongoing funding. Better to address existing programs, make sure they’re properly funded.
Similarly, Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, responding to a query from the public in Goshen, said he’s hesitant to fully restore some $300 million in education funding cut under former Gov. Mitch Daniels. He’s worried about other looming costs related to implementation of federal health care reform measures, among other things.
• Indiana Department of Child Services: Gov. Mike Pence proposed boosting DCS funding by $35 million and Yoder, for one, said he backs that. Rep. Rebecca Kubacki, R-Syracuse, expressed support for a measure that would increase the number of intake specialists handling calls made to the state’s toll-free child abuse hotline.
• Jobs training: There was plenty of discussion about augmenting jobs training efforts, and seeming support for such moves. Gov. Mike Pence highlighted the need for such action in his state of the state address last week.
• Road funding: Culver worries that funding for road improvements is dipping as gas tax revenue falls stemming from the jittery economy and increasingly gas-efficient autos. One proposal to address that would be a measure halting funding of Indiana State Police from gas tax funds, freeing that money up for roads, and drawing money for the ISP from the general fund instead.
• Sales tax for online purchases: Lawmakers are considering a proposal requiring online retailer Amazon to start collecting sales tax on its sales in Indiana later this year instead of 2014, per an earlier agreement. Culver expressed mixed feelings — he’s OK with the notion of Amazon collecting sales taxes, but not so sure the state should renege on its original agreement giving Amazon until 2014 to start doing so.
• Licensing mo-peds: Rep. Tim Neese, R-Elkhart, said he’s working on legislation governing use of mo-peds, treating them more like motorcycles. Operators would need to have insurance and training and there’d be an increased emphasis on training in their use.
• The state line: Michigan lawmakers have assigned a special committee to help re-survey the Indiana-Michigan line and Yoder has authored a proposal, Senate Bill 524, to augment efforts on the Indiana side of the border. The line was surveyed in the 1800s but needs to be updated. “We’re coming to 2013 and we don’t even know where that line is,” said Yoder.