ELKHART — Area business leaders drove down to Indianapolis for the day on Wednesday and urged the General Assembly not to act this session on a top Republican initiative — eliminating the business personal property tax.
It's a position that might seem to run contrary to the interests of a group representing business leaders. Kyle Hannon, president/CEO of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce, said the chambers want the tax abolished, but not until replacement revenue is identified for local governments and schools.
"We'd like to see the elimination of this but we can't cripple the government," Hannon said. "Everyone agrees with that, so the discussion is about how to replace that revenue. The sensible thing to happen would be to say, let's have a summer study committee and work through this. Will the sensible thing be done? I don't know."
This note of caution is coming from the same group that on Friday announced its support of referenda that the Elkhart Community Schools and Concord Schools will place before voters May 6, seeking tax increases in the wake of state-mandated property tax caps.
Making the Indianapolis trip were 25 representatives from seven area chambers: Elkhart, Goshen, St. Joseph County, LaPorte, Warsaw-Kosciusko, Syracuse-Wawasee and North Webster.
The group started the day at the Barnes & Thornberg law firm, where members ate lunch and listened to remarks on the issue from lobbyists for the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns and Indiana Chamber. From there they went to the Indiana Department of Education, where they were encouraged to give their input into state educational standards.
"They want business to tell them, what do you want the schools to do?" Hannon said. "For a long time it's been, business, this is what we are doing in the schools. Businesses have an opportunity now to have a voice in standards of schools, and we're going to do everything we can to encourage them to participate in that."
Chamber members urged state education officials to realize that college is not for everyone, while noting that education should continue beyond high school, in the form of vocational training, certifications and apprenticeships. The state can embrace this concept by supporting Ivy Tech Community College, which is raising money to build a new advanced manufacturing training center in Elkhart, and by looking at more than college admissions when evaluating high schools, Hannon said.
The group also met with Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, Gov. Mike Pence and Elkhart area legislators.
"Indianapolis is only a three-hour car ride from Elkhart but it can be a world away," Hannon said. "It helps the legislators to know that folks back home support them and also are very curious about things going on."