Watchdog Indiana Home Page
Watchdog Indiana provides information about the revenues, spending, and long-term debt assumption of Indiana local and state governments. An online community is established where Hoosiers come together voluntarily to help encourage our state and local governments better respond to the needs of working families.
Watchdog Indiana is a
non-profit, non-connected, and non-party advocate for good government that focuses on the
state and local tax burden of Hoosier working families.
Watchdog Indiana was founded by Aaron Smith on November 14, 2001.
To receive Watchdog Indiana E-mail Updates, put SUBSCRIBE and your county of residence in the subject line of your E-mail sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. There are currently Hoosiers in 81 counties who receive E-mail Updates. Since November 14, 2001, 300 general distribution E-mail Updates have been sent. NOTE: Watchdog Indiana does NOT sell or give its E-mail Address Book to anyone!
Immediate action needed!
05/03/2013: This ALERT is applicable to the following counties that have NOT adopted a Taxpayer UNfriendly regressive motor vehicle excise surtax and wheel tax: Adams, Bartholomew, Benton, Blackford, Boone, Clark, Crawford, Dearborn, DeKalb, Floyd, Franklin, Fulton, Grant, Hamilton, Harrison, Huntington, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Jennings, Knox, Kosciusko, Lake, LaPorte, Madison, Marshall, Martin, Miami, Newton, Ohio, Orange, Pike, Porter, Pulaski, Ripley, Scott, Spencer, Starke, Steuben, Switzerland, Wabash, Warren, Washington, Wayne, White.
Effective June 1, any city council or town board in the 45 counties listed above may take the first step to pass a county-wide motor vehicle excise surtax and wheel tax by adopting (after notice and public hearing) a resolution supporting a proposed ordinance to implement the surtax/wheel tax. The resolution is sent to the county auditor who has 10 days to notify the county council and the other city councils and town boards in the county that they must, after notice and public hearing, vote on the resolution supporting the proposed ordinance within 30 days. Passage of a county surtax/wheel tax in this way is Taxpayer UNfriendly because there is a possibility in many counties for a minority of county, city, and town council/board members representing a minority of the county population to impose a county-wide surtax/wheel tax.
An E-mail was sent on May 2 by the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns (IACT) to its members emphasizing that there is a one month window from June 1 to July 1 to adopt a county surtax/wheel tax and make it effective for 2014.
IACT members like to publicize themselves under the “Trust Local” tag line. The sad truth is that the only thing we can trust many of our local municipal governments to do is be greedy grabbers of ever more tax dollars to subsidize the pro-developer interests who work very hard to “influence” the local elected officials who are supposed to be our public servants. IACT is promoting the passage of a surtax/wheel tax in more counties even though our Indiana General Assembly acted this year to increase annual transportation funding for cities and towns by 34% and counties by 23% WITHOUT new transportation tax increases.
The 2013-15 state budget just passed by our General Assembly makes better use of the existing state Gasoline Tax and state Sales Tax revenues from gasoline purchases to significantly increase local transportation funding. Estimates of how many more transportation dollars each of the local governing units in Boone County will get from the state when compared to 2012 can be found online at http://www.finplaneducation.net/transportation_funding_increases.htm. The methodology used to estimate the Boone County local transportation funding increases can also be used to estimate how many more local transportation funding dollars will be received during the coming years in every other Indiana county.
Estimates of upcoming local funding transportation increases can be used to counter the money-grabbing mindset of those municipalities who want to impose a county-wide surtax/wheel tax. It is shameful during this time of slow recovery from the Great Recession for municipalities to want a new surtax/wheel tax at the same time they are receiving a large increase in transportation funding from the state!
Watchdogs will need to be more vigilant to oppose the imposition of unneeded county surtax/wheel taxes. Every municipality in the 45 counties without a surtax/wheel tax will have to be “watched like a hawk” to determine if the council or board intends to consider a resolution supporting a proposed ordinance to implement the surtax/wheel tax. Please send an E-mail to Watchdog Indiana at email@example.com if you learn that a municipality is considering a surtax/wheel tax resolution – Watchdogs in the impacted county will be alerted to take action.
One potential benefit of the significant local transportation funding increases from the state is that the county councils that have imposed a surtax/wheel tax may be able to reduce or rescind those surtax/wheel taxes!
05/16/2013: Since November 14, 2001, the votes of our Indiana General Assembly public servants on important bills that impact the state and local tax burdens of Hoosier working families have been recorded on the Watchdog Indiana Legislative Voting Record web page at http://www.finplaneducation.net/legislative_record.htm. The votes of our State Representatives and State Senators on six 2013 General Assembly bills have been added to the Legislative Voting Record. A brief description of these six significant 2013 bills is listed next.
Indiana House Bill 1001.HB 1001 is Taxpayer Friendly because the 2013-15 state budget makes better use of the existing state Gasoline Tax and state Sales Tax revenues from gasoline purchases with NO NEW TRANSPORTATION TAX INCREASES to increase transportation funding for INDOT by 11%, cities and towns by 34%, and counties by 23%. The applicable conference committee report was adopted by the House 70-30, adopted by the Senate 39-11, and was signed by the Governor.
Indiana House Bill 1011.HB 1011 is Taxpayer Friendly because construction of a costly light rail transportation system cannot be approved by a new central Indiana transit district before March 14, 2014. HB 1011 passed the Senate 39-11 with amendments, the House concurred 59-35 in the Senate amendments, and HB 1011 was signed by the Governor.
Indiana House Bill 1313.HB 1313 is Taxpayer Friendly because it (1) supports the establishment of a 2013 interim committee to study local government regulation of residential leases and (2) prohibits a local government from adopting regulations for landlord licensing, mandatory landlord classes, and rental inspection and registration fees until July 1, 2014. HB 1313 passed the Senate 30-19 with amendments, the House concurred 51-32 in the Senate amendments, and HB 1313was signed by the Governor.
Indiana Senate Bill 319.SB 319 is Taxpayer Friendly because it prevents a significant shift of the property tax burden to farm working families by (1) using the current soil productivity factors until 2015 and (2) requiring the Department of Local Government Finance to confer with the College of Agriculture of Purdue University and submit a 2013 interim study committee report on soil productivity factors. SB 319 passed the Senate 48-0, passed the House 98-0, and was signed by the Governor.
Indiana House Bill 1117 and Indiana Senate Bill 389.The identical bills HB 1117 and SB 389 were Taxpayer UNfriendly because they created the possibility for a minority of county income tax council members representing a minority of the county population to impose a county-wide motor vehicle excise surtax and wheel tax. HB 1117 was defeated in the House by a 31-67 vote after SB 389 passed the Senate 37-11. Even though a majority of our 150 General Assembly members voted against the county income tax council scheme of imposing a motor vehicle excise surtax and wheel tax, the conferees for the HB 1001 state budget bill (State Representatives Tim Brown and Suzanne Crouch and State Senators Luke Kenley and Brandt Hershman) unethically amended HB 1001 to permit a county income tax council to impose a motor vehicle excise surtax and a wheel tax.
The votes on the six 2013 General Assembly bills listed above were used to update the Indiana General Assembly & Governor Ratings web page at http://www.finplaneducation.net/general_assembly_ratings.htm. Our General Assembly is more Taxpayer Friendly now than at any time since 2002! The “bad old days” occurred in 2005 when only 8 State Representatives and 2 State Senators were Taxpayer Friendly. After recording the results of the 2013 General Assembly session, 73 State Representatives and 38 State Senators have today earned a Taxpayer Friendly rating from Watchdog Indiana. Please contact your State Representative and State Senator to thank them for their results-oriented, compassionate, and fiscally responsible public service, or to encourage them to make more Taxpayer Friendly public policy decisions in the future.
As summarized next, a few additional public policy matters were the focus of Watchdog Indiana activity during the 2013 General Assembly session.
Indiana Senate Bill 349.SB 349 improved from Taxpayer UNfriendly to Taxpayer Neutral. SB 349 would have enabled a city or town council, with the approval of the utility service board, to divert funds from a municipally owned utility's surplus earnings to any local economic development organization anywhere in Indiana for use in maintaining undefined existing infrastructure. This misuse of utility surplus earnings could have resulted in utility rate increases if utility operating, depreciation, bond, or retirement expenses increased. SB 349 was amended in conference committee to allow the utility surplus earnings diversion ONLY if a municipality meets both of the following conditions: (1) the municipality has a municipally owned utility that has donated funds of the municipally owned utility to a local economic development organization before July 1, 2012; and (2) the municipality is a city having a population of more than 11,000 but less than 11,450. Peru is the only Indiana municipality that meets both of these conditions.
Rational Municipal Annexations and Reorganizations.Indiana Senate Bills 285 and 343 were passed to help protect rural areas from illogical and predatory municipal annexations and reorganizations. Summaries of the Taxpayer Friendly provisions in SB 285 and SB 343 can be found online at http://www.finplaneducation.net/rational_municipal_annexations.htm.
Homestead Deductions Threat.Some legislators responded to the influence of single-interest manipulators and began a discussion of how to reduce or eliminate residential and agricultural homestead property tax deductions to lower the property taxes on Agricultural Business, Commercial, Commercial Apartments, Exempt Organizations, Industrial, Nonhomestead Residential, and Utilities. The property tax relief provided by the homestead standard and supplemental deductions (along with the property tax relief enjoyed by all classes of property tax payers from the 2008 property tax reform legislation) is paid for by past sales taxes increases – it is good public policy that homeowners have the homestead standard and supplemental deductions because individuals pay 85% of the sales tax collected by the state. The list of our General Assembly public servants who have pledged to maintain the homestead standard and supplemental deductions without change can be found online at http://www.finplaneducation.net/homestead_deductions_threat.htm. Please contact your State Representative and State Senator and ask them if they pledge (or thank them if they have already pledged) to maintain both our homestead standard deduction and our homestead supplemental deduction without ANY change. So their position on homestead deductions can be recorded, please send an Email to firstname.lastname@example.org if your State Representative and State Senator respect you enough to answer your question about maintaining the homestead deductions.
NEW! Homestead Deductions Threat: Indiana General Assembly legislation has been authored that would increase the property tax burden of Residential and Agricultural Homesteads by 12.18%. The following property classes would pay 13.67% less in property taxes: Agricultural Business, Commercial, Commercial Apartments, Exempt Organizations, Industrial, Nonhomestead Residential, Utilities. This legislation would disproportionally and dramatically increase the property taxes on the owners of lower value homes while the owners of higher value homes would have a lesser or no property tax increase.
UPDATED! Indiana General Assembly & Governor Ratings: Watchdog Indiana provides the only ratings of state legislators and the governor based on how their votes on key legislative proposals from 2002 to the present affect the state and local tax burden of Hoosier working families.
Who Are Your Elected Officials: You can enter your address or click on a map to see a list of all your elected official - local, state, federal - in one place. All information on this site is maintained by your local county circuit court clerk's office in conjunction with the Indiana Secretary of State's office.
Indiana Transparency Portal: This one-stop online portal for state government information provides easy access to all state contracts, employee salaries, an interactive budget section, revenue data, state debt authority overview, financial statements for both local governments and state government, performance information, and recovery and reinvestment act information.
Stop Local Option Waste (SLOW): The SLOW webpage summarizes by county the actions that Hoosier fiscal patriots have taken to stop the wasteful spending of our hard-earned federal tax dollars on unnecessary nice-to-have local projects that do not address high-priority needs. Everyday citizens must provide the leadership needed to overpower the single-interest advocates whose cumulative efforts enable the Congressional gridlock that fosters ruinous federal deficit spending.
Third Grade Best Practices Practices Inventory Report: Nine "Best Practices" have been identified from the Best Practices data provided by some Principals of the Indiana elementary schools that were among the Third Grade Spring 2010 ISTEP+ Results Leaders. These improvement ideas will be helpful to those Hoosiers concerned about K-12 public education.
Indiana's Cash For College: Updated annually in the lead-up to Indiana's March 10 financial aid deadline, Cash for College works to equip students and families with the practical steps needed to plan and pay for college. Indiana's Cash for College Campaign is made possible by Learn More Indiana, a partnership of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, the Indiana Department of Education, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development and the State Student Assistance Commission of Indiana.
2008 House Bill 1001: Thanks to the November 2, 2010 passage of the Constitutional Amendment, this comprehensive property tax relief bill makes the state and local tax burden of Hoosier working families more fair and affordable by moving away from property taxes to sales and income taxes.
Redevelopment Commissions Oversight: Watchdog Indiana supports much improved oversight over redevelopment commissions and departments by (a) the legislative or fiscal body of the taxing unit that created a redevelopment commission or department, (b) the State Board of Accounts, and (c) everyday Hoosiers through the public meeting and public records laws.
UPDATED! Rational Municipal Annexations and Reorganizations: Many concerned Hoosiers realize that Indiana Code changes are needed to protect against illogical and predatory municipal annexations and reorganizations.
Township Government Reform: Watchdog Indiana has developed a position on township government reform that includes placing the public question "Shall the township government be retained?" on the ballot in every county.
Indiana Foreclosure Prevention Network: If you or someone you know is behind on the mortgage, or even in danger of falling behind, please contact the IFPN, a statewide program to provide free mortgage foreclosure counseling and education to at-risk homeowners. All Network services are free, and all Network counselors are certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD.
IHCDA University: The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority has a free online course to educate prospective homebuyers on the home purchasing process.
Lobbyists and the Legislature: How much do lobbyists spend? Which lawmakers accept gifts from lobbyists? The Indianapolis Star has established a searchable database of Indiana General Assembly lobbyist spending for the reporting periods from May 2009 through April 2010.
Watchdog Indiana Topics Index
Click here for access to the various Watchdog Indiana web pages related to 25 different topic areas.
Listed below are several ways you can help control Indiana taxes and spending.
Bookmark this website so you can easily visit Watchdog Indiana often to help learn about state cash revenues, cash spending, and long-term debt assumption.
Suggest projects for Watchdog Indiana to adopt. Please send an E-mail if you know of something that needs the attention of Watchdog Indiana.
Register to vote.
Visit the Indiana General Assembly & Governor Ratings for a candidate's rating when voting for State Representatives and State Senators.
E-mail to the Editor of your local newspaper a letter or opinion article about state cash revenues, cash spending, and long-term debt assumption. Use Letters To The Editor Via E-mail to find the E-mail address of the Editor of your local newspaper.
Use the Local Government Factfinding List to understand and influence the revenues, spending, and long-term debt assumption decisions of your local government.
Make a monetary contribution to Watchdog Indiana. Contributions will be used to help publicize the positions taken by Watchdog Indiana. Watchdog Indiana is established as a non-profit, non-connected, and non-party political action committee (see WINPAC) so contributors will be protected by the bookkeeping and reporting requirements of Indiana's Election Division. All Watchdog Indiana monetary contributions and expenditures can be found online at the Indiana Campaign Finance Database. Watchdog Indiana contributions are not tax deductible. Send an E-mail for the mailing address if you wish to make a monetary contribution to Watchdog Indiana.
Establish a local Watchdog chapter for your local government. See the Constitution And Bylaws for organizational details. Watchdog Lebanon is an example of a local Watchdog chapter.
Please send an E-mail telling what you think about Watchdog Indiana or anything else that comes to mind. Your comments, suggestions, problems, complaints, praise, and opinions are welcome.
This page was last updated on 05/16/13.