Mayors, Commissioners Want More Funding Options

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WOWO): The holiday season means lots of wish lists, and its not just for kids.

Mayors and county commissioners from Northeast Indiana have made their wishes for the upcoming General Assembly. Those requests revolve around new funding opportunities.

Their top four objectives are: transportation funding for infrastructure improvement restructuring property assessments for big box stores. Local food and beverage taxability and criminal sentencing funding.

This as local governments are dealing with a loss of tax revenue. The Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute estimates local governments have lost more than $760 million, since the state implemented property tax caps in 2009.

Verbatim from Mayors' & Commissioners' Caucus of Northeast Indiana 

Mayors’ and Commissioners' Caucus adopts legislative agenda

 Transportation funding for infrastructure improvements. Restructuring property assessments for big box stores. Local food and beverage taxability. Criminal sentencing reform funding. The Mayors' and Commissioners' Caucus, which is convened by the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, recently adopted these four items as priorities in the Caucus’ 2016 Legislative Agenda. This is the first time the Caucus has released its own legislative agenda. 

“The Mayors' and Commissioners' Caucus’ first agenda for the General Assembly actively represents the region’s progressive interests in creating infrastructure and quality of life improvements,” said Nelson Peters, Allen County Commissioner and 2015 Chair of the Legislative Committee of the Mayors' and Commissioners' Caucus. “The Caucus feels the four agenda items will help grow our economic climate, enact valuable change and compete for new business and talent.”

The Caucus, which includes elected officials from each of the 11 counties in Northeast Indiana, meets regularly to address economic development issues, legislative advocacy and other matters of common concern within the region. Key focuses include supporting area entrepreneurs, improving the region’s interstate accessibility and streamlining permitting and zoning processes. The Caucus has volunteered to partake in proactive approaches with state legislators to advance the following four items:

Transportation funding: Find sustainable road funding solutions by implementing the following methods as a way to increase road funding to local governments:

·         Alternative vehicle user fees

·         Gasoline tax indexing

·         Gasoline tax increase

·         Additional local adoption tools

Dark box sales assessment method: This process uses the sale prices of vacant stores in other locations to successfully argue to the state that fully stocked, fully operational stores are assessed too highly for tax purposes. The reduction of assessed value shifts the property tax burden to homeowners, and consequently causes a direct impact loss to taxing districts. The direct impact to northeast Indiana units is a collective decrease of $69.9M. The Caucus asks the state to find a resolution so that there is not a detrimental impact to local units of governments, economic development, or property owners.

Local food and beverage taxability: Allows each member of the Caucus to enact a local food and beverage tax, which would provide a mechanism for capturing revenue to be utilized for infrastructure repairs or Regional Development Authority projects.

Criminal sentencing reform funding: Requesting additional funding to flow to local jurisdictions for the housing of felony offenders and alternative sentencing programs. 

In addition to approving the Caucus’ own agenda, the group also approved the Northeast Indiana Regional Chamber’s 2016 Legislative Agenda. The Regional Chamber’s nine agenda items include rural entrepreneurship development, supporting the federal Manufacturing Tax Deduction, strengthening Northeast Indiana’s Enterprise Zone, improving the region’s regulatory environment, fully funding Indiana Grown, claiming of the federal medical device tax credit, supporting advanced-degree programs and infrastructure improvements.

“Northeast Indiana has a proud tradition of creating opportunities and building communities that are strong and healthy,” said Columbia City Mayor Ryan Daniel. “The Caucus’ agenda and the support of the Regional Chamber’s agenda protect these values and ensure we are offering our residents the best possible chance of pursuing happiness.”


About the Mayors' and Commissioners' Caucus

Founded in 2012, the Mayors' & Commissioners' Caucus of Northeast Indiana is comprised of the mayors and commissioners of the 11 counties in the Northeast Indiana region. The Caucus provides Northeast Indiana mayors and commissioners with a unified voice in advancing economic development policy matters at the state level. The Caucus uses consensus-based decision making to reach agreement and relies upon cooperation and collaboration to address the region's complex issues. To this end, the Caucus provides a forum for the discussion of common issues and multi-jurisdictional challenges, and serves as a partner and sounding board for leaders from other sectors.