Overall, Indiana has a very competitive business tax climate. That is thanks to the 2002 elimination of the inventory tax (like most other states had already done) and additional measures.
Concerns, however, remain. They include:
Many states do not have a personal property tax on machinery and equipment. Indiana does. These taxes hinder innovation; an alternative is to tax the income and sales that are produced
Indiana’s corporate income tax rate of 8.5% is ninth highest in the country, a disincentive for new or expanding businesses
The classification system that would emerge if proposed differential property tax caps are approved
The cap argument was at center stage throughout the 2008 General Assembly, and it will return in 2009. Homeowner property tax relief was critical, but it should not come at the expense of future business development. If business property is subject to different tax treatment in the constitution, spending interests will return seeking more. The 3% business property tax cap (even higher in 2009) would be the third highest rate in the country.
The constitutional guarantee of uniform and equal assessments and taxation was a wise one. Instead of unequal caps, let’s enhance spending controls, enact the efficiencies laid out by the Kernan-Shepard Commission and improve the tax climate for all.
The UniGov relationship between Indianapolis and Marion County that developed 40 years ago remains more the exception than the norm. Discussions of city-county working agreements in Fort Wayne and Evansville, among other places, have taken place in recent years.
The local government efficiency focus in-state has shifted to the Kernan-Shepard Commission and its 27 recommendations. Perhaps no issue is more important to long-term economic reform. Count the Indiana Chamber (with an assist from former Gov. Joe Kernan) among the chief advocates in spreading the word and working for enactment.
Louisville/Jefferson County is the recent model of success (2005 BizVoice story). Other city-county consolidations, according to Governing magazine: Nashville/Davidson County, Jacksonville/Duval County, Boston, Denver, New Orleans, Honolulu, Philadelphia and San Francisco.
A potential marriage between Pittsburgh and Allegheny County has never gained traction. Officials keep trying, but the latest proposal would exempt the county’s 129 other municipalities (129; seems like local government on steroids).
Pennsylvanians will have their say later this year at the polls. Indiana voters will be going to the polls in referendum elections for 43 township assessors (much more to come on that topic) with the General Assembly and others tackling comprehensive reform in 2009.