Food tax bill too broad in scope

To the editor:

None of us who spoke in opposition to House Bill 1096 are against a new traditional fairground with an appropriate-sized horse arena.

We are likewise not opposed to the originally proposed 1 percent increase in the county’s current food and beverage tax.

But let’s be perfectly clear that Mr. Darrin Couch, Commissioner Tom Stevens, Councilmen Kent Fisk, Jim Shelby, Bill Bolander, Tom Roney and all the other HCECC people are not just talking about a traditional fairground. They are talking about much more.

Also, what was supposed to be a simple and temporary 1 percent increase in the county’s food and beverage tax with use of proceeds limited to renovating the current fairground or building a new traditional fairground also turned out to be much more than originally advertised.

If House Bill 1096 had gone to the House floor as written, this bill would have allowed our County Council to have unfettered access to hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in the coming years. The language of the bill also would have changed what was to be a temporary tax into a permanent tax and would have also arguably given the council total control over the project rather than the commissioners.

HB1096, Section 10, states, this chapter “will not be repealed or amended in a manner that will adversely affect the imposition or collection of the tax imposed under this chapter if the payment of any of the obligations is outstanding.”

This language together with other language in the bill would ensure that this tax could be used to leverage a never-ending series of revenue bonds pretty much for any purposes approved by the council.

When it comes to the appropriation of food and beverage tax proceeds, the county council does not have to publish the appropriations in the newspaper and then hold public hearings, where members of the public have the statutory right to speak.

The council can move and approve the appropriations at a single meeting. The only redress the public has is to vote the council members out of office at time of their reelection.

I would like to remind you that the last day to register for the May 3 primary is April 4. You can register at any Indiana BMV office or at the Hancock County Courthouse at any time during normal operating hours.

Early voting starts April 5. For information on voting locations, contact the election office at the county courthouse. Remind your friends, relatives and neighbors to make sure they are registered. It is critical that we to turn out the vote this year.

George R. Langston