How to waste $30,000

June 12, 2013 Scott Pelath

For immediate release:
June 12, 2013


INDIANAPOLIS – And you thought the 2013 session of the Indiana General Assembly ended back in April….

We were back for business this week, taking part in what is called a technical corrections day.

This was created back in the 1990s, with the idea of giving the Legislature a chance to address some of the fallout from a session. At a safe distance from the conclusion of the session, we meet again to see if there’s a need to take any more action.

More specifically, it was designed to allow lawmakers to consider what to do about bills that the governor has vetoed and to pass legislation that corrects all the little mistakes contained in bills that were passed during the session…a misspelled word here, a faulty comma there, and so on. Might not sound like much, but when you add them all up, you sometimes end up with a bill that is hundreds of pages long and read only by people looking for a cure to insomnia.

This is the first time that we’ve actually had a technical corrections day, and you might think it was because we needed to address the three bills vetoed by the governor and we needed to take care of all those errors that were found in this year’s new laws.

Except that there was no technical corrections bill.

And we didn’t vote on two of the three bills vetoed by the governor.

We only dealt with one: House Enrolled Act (HEA) 1546. The Republican majorities in the House and Senate chose to override a veto from the Republican governor.

Since we spent about $30,000 of your money to come back to the Statehouse and do this, perhaps I should explain what HEA 1546 was all about.

In the language of the Legislature, it’s what is commonly called a Christmas tree: one bill filled with lots of stuff.

Scan its 60-plus pages and you will find a provision that prohibits the use of something called a “sales tax zapper.” Over here is language that exempts out-of-state workers and firms from paying state income taxes if they have come to Indiana to assist in disaster relief. There’s some tax relief in there for veterans, and some relief for public utilities and businesses that sell alcoholic beverages.

But the governor vetoed this bill for two reasons: it attempted to restore taxes to pay for jail operations that have been illegally charged to residents of Jackson County in southern Indiana and Pulaski County in northern Indiana.

Since the middle of 2011, residents of Jackson County have been paying a special local income tax that was no longer authorized by law. If you think that’s bad, Pulaski County residents have been paying a similar local income tax that hasn’t been legal since the middle of 2006.

That means the people of Jackson County have paid more than $1 million in taxes that they did not owe. Folks who live in Pulaski County have paid nearly $5 million in taxes they didn’t legally owe.

The governor, for one, thinks they should get their money back. His opinion is that the counties have the financial ability to pay these costs until the 2014 session, when they can ask the Legislature to reestablish the tax and eliminate any worries about illegal tax collections.

He couldn’t convince members of his own party of that wisdom, and the House and Senate majorities rejected their governor.

First of all, you might wonder how such a situation can take place in this day and age. Someone at the state and local level should have caught these mistakes a long time ago.

But is this a good reason to bring lawmakers back to the Statehouse for a day? I will leave that to you to judge.