As wind and snow raged outside the Statehouse Tuesday night, Indiana House Democrats turned a cold shoulder to the idea of permanent tax reform.
No discussion. No arguments on the merits of House Joint Resolution 1, which would have amended the Indiana Constitution to include permanent limits on property tax. No arguments, period. Just the slamming of the legislative door and then a stunned silence.
This was the wrong thing to do. In one quick and apparently politically motivated move, the House Democrats moved to withdraw the resolution from the floor, interrupting Rep. Tim Harris, R-Marion, as he offered an amendment that would have led to the elimination of the homestead property tax. The House Ways and Means Committee had already overwhelmingly - 22-1 - passed the amendment with a recommendation that the full House pass it.
Hoosier taxpayers have been clamoring for real and immediate property tax reform, and, for a while, anyway, it appeared there was going to be sincere bipartisan cooperation to make reform permanent through a constitutional amendment. For example, by a 93-1 vote, the House passed House Bill 1001, which contained much of the House Republicans' 10 Standards for Success and Gov. Mitch Daniels' property tax plan.
But that evaporated around 10 p.m. Tuesday.
It appears the Democrats may not be as sincere about true and permanent property tax reform as they say. Perhaps there are points in HJR 1 they don't totally support. The resolution contains the governor's suggested property tax caps of 1 percent for homesteads, 2 percent for rental property and 3 percent for commercial properties, and maybe they had something they wanted to discuss. But they didn't even offer to argue their points. They just shut things down and prevented meaningful debate.
There was even a possibility HJR 1 could have been considered the next day on the House floor, but that did not happen. In fact, nothing happened. House Democrats squandered a second opportunity to relieve Hoosier taxpayers of the onerous burden that property tax has become.
House Republicans are disappointed about Tuesday's turn of events, but we are still determined to work for immediate property tax relief and permanent reform of the state's outdated property tax system. As we prepare for the second half of the legislative process, we look forward to considering the property tax measures our Senate colleagues have sent us for consideration. In particular, we welcome Senate Joint Resolution 1, which includes the same limits as the House resolution killed by the Democrats.
House Democrats deprived Hoosier taxpayers of one excellent opportunity for something that has been a long time coming - immediate property tax cuts and permanent tax caps. House Republicans will do everything we can to make sure that does not happen again. The citizens were not well-served Tuesday night, and they deserve better.
Rep. Bill Friend (R-Macy) is Floor Leader of the House Republican Caucus.