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Mayors Oppose Tax Cap Referendum But Admit Fight Likely Is Lost

Columbus’s Fred Armstrong says next month’s property tax cap referendum could hamstring future governments. But one lawmaker says there's no better plan.

Columbus Mayor Fred Armstrong

Photo: Daniel Robison

Columbus Mayor Fred Armstrong is frustrated with the discussion on property tax caps leading up to next month's statewide referendum.

Back from a conference in Fort Wayne, Columbus’s Fred Armstrong said he’s found many mayors worried next month’s property tax cap referendum could hamstring future governments.  But one Bartholomew County lawmaker said it’s unlikely a better plan for curtailing spending will surface.

Local government spending – and, by extension, incoming revenue – dominated the conference hosted by the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns.  That led to discussion of the state’s property tax cap referendum which will appear on ballots statewide next month.  Columbus Mayor Fred Armstrong said no mayor he’s spoken to – Republican or Democrat – supports adding the caps to the constitution.

“How many listeners do we have right now, do you think?  A guess… Well I’m telling five thousand or two thousand people it’s not the right thing to do.  I agree with the circuit breakers , but don’t put it in the constitution.  It’s just a policy that can be changed, because there could be a better mousetrap,” Armstrong said.

But Columbus State Representative — and tax consultant — Milo Smith, said taxes and spending should be curtailed whether the economy is bearish or bullish.

“If you use that analogy, why do we have a constitution at all?,” Smith said. “You don’t wait until you get sick to take care of yourself.  You have preventive health care.  And it’s the same way in providing services through the government,” Smith said.

Smith echoed Governor Daniels, who says one reason for making the caps constitutional is to prevent future legislatures from changing them.  And Armstrong concedes the referendum will likely pass overwhelmingly.  But if the vote was left up to just mayors?

“No, it would not pass, I don’t think,” Armstrong said.

Stan Jastrzebski

WFIU/WTIU News Senior Editor Stan Jastrzebski spent time as a reporter with WGN Radio in Chicago and as an editor at Network Indiana, an Indianapolis news service. Stan is the winner of awards from the Associated Press, the RTDNA, the Indiana Broadcasters Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. He hosts WFIU's Ask the Mayor and anchors WTIU's InFocus.

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