January 30, 2002
Coalition: Lawmakers must act on taxes, development, education
LAFAYETTE, Ind. A coalition of Greater Lafayette business, education, labor and local government leaders today (Wednesday, 1/30) joined forces to urge the Legislature to take action to realign taxes, maintain state support for education and invest in Indiana's high-tech future.
"This statewide Alliance for Indiana's Future is a unique and unprecedented coalition," said Dana Smith, president of the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce. "Locally, more than 13 organizations and institutions have signed on in support of the coalition."
The Greater Lafayette Alliance echoed statements issued earlier this month by leaders of more than a dozen statewide organizations. They called for:
A reduction in property taxes so that home ownership remains affordable and farmers can keep their land.
A restructuring of business taxes to support economic development for the global economy and the information age.
Funding for K-12 public schools that is sufficient for excellence and that allows schools to meet the state academic standards and school accountability reforms.
Funding for a high-quality public higher education system that keeps our colleges and universities accessible and affordable for the state's high school graduates and that supports the interconnection of research with advanced technologies and economic development.
Creation of a tax structure that provides the revenues necessary to fund investments required to achieve the alliance's vision for Indiana's future.
"We have come together because Indiana is at a crisis point," Smith said. "The Indiana General Assembly must act, and it must act this session, in a comprehensive way to save our future."
Lafayette Mayor Dave Heath, who was out of town and not present at the Wednesday news conference, earlier said: "Indiana faces three challenges: economic development, quality education and rising property taxes. The mayors of Indiana insist that the General Assembly must address these issues now. Our bipartisan group of mayors of the 20 largest Indiana cities are unanimous in our support for the alliance."
Purdue President Martin C. Jischke said education is the solution, not the problem.
"Investment in K-12 and higher education together can provide solutions," Jischke said. "Taxpayer dollars that underwrite schools, colleges and universities are investments that are low-risk and high-return a rare combination."
Indiana also must invest wisely to create an economy that will support Indiana's potential, he said.
"Indiana must foster economic development, especially in the high-tech sector," Jischke said. "With a well-educated state and a high-tech base, we will generate more tax revenues, spend less on social services and reap the huge benefits of creativity and entrepreneurship that translate into prosperity."
Jeanna Jones, a family and consumer science teacher at Jefferson High School and president of the Lafayette Education Association, concurred, saying the state must not only protect education but help it to get better.
"The K-12 school systems in this state are handicapped by a school funding formula held hostage by an out-of-date tax code," Jones said. "If we are to improve, we must realign our revenue systems."
Alan Kemper, owner of Kemper Farms and president of Tippecanoe County Farm Bureau, Inc., said all homeowners and landowners face a crisis because of court-ordered property reassessment.
"This should have been resolved a year ago. We've wasted time, and now must act or many, many people will find they no longer can afford their homes or their land," Kemper said.
Doug Mansfield, the president and chief operating officer, manufacturing group, Kirby Risk Corp. and the incoming chair of Greater Lafayette Progress, Inc., added that other business taxes are discouraging growth in Indiana.
"A perfect example is the inventory tax," he said. "Indiana is one of only two states in the Midwest with such a tax. What does that mean? It means that companies, such as Caterpillar in Lafayette, are thinking twice about doing more business here. That's why a bill is now pending before the General Assembly that would absolve Cat of those inventory expenses if the company expands its operation here. The outcome of that bill will make an enormous difference to Caterpillar and to Greater Lafayette. Imagine what effect dissolving this tax would have across the state."
But the state must do more than just ease taxes, Mansfield said.
"Indiana must continue to fund the 21st Century Fund, designed to promote New Economy startups," Mansfield said. "Right now, Indiana's very modest investment in this fund is tied up because of the budget crisis. Indiana must devise a fair way to raise the revenues the state needs to fund such economic development initiatives and K-college education. Indiana must create a progressive business climate.
"And Indiana must do it now."
Area groups that have joined the Greater Lafayette chapter of the alliance include: The Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce;
Greater Lafayette Progress, Inc.;
Greater Lafayette Community Development Corp.;
Tippecanoe County Farm Bureau, Inc.;
Lafayette Education Association;
Tippecanoe Education Association;
Greater Lafayette Community Foundation;
United Way of Greater Lafayette;
Mayor Dave Heath of Lafayette;
Mayor Sonya Margerum of West Lafayette;
Tippecanoe County Commissioners;
Ivy Tech State College;
Lafayette Regional Association of Realtors.
Members of the state alliance include: Central Indiana Corporate Partnership;
Hoosiers for Higher Education;
Indiana Association of Realtors;
Indiana Bankers Association;
Indiana Cities and Towns Association;
Indiana Chamber of Commerce;
Indiana Farm Bureau;
Indiana Health Industry Forum;
Indiana Information Technology Association;
Indiana Metropolitan Mayor's Alliance;
Indiana Research and Development Coalition;
Indiana State Teachers Association;
Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce;
United Auto Workers Region 3.
All public universities in Indiana, including Purdue and Ivy Tech State College.