Porter: Senate Bill 565 offers more for the rich, less for the rest of us

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INDIANAPOLIS – State Rep. Gregory W. Porter (D-Indianapolis), ranking Democrat on the Indiana House Ways and Means Committee, today issued the following statement after Gov. Eric Holcomb signed Senate Bill 565 into law:

“Senate Bill 565 is one of those bills that is so large and complex that it tends to overwhelm people. But that is precisely why it needs to be looked at very carefully, especially for what it says about the Utility Receipts Tax.

“This is a state-imposed tax of 1.4 percent on the gross receipts from ‘all’ utility services consumed in Indiana. It includes revenue derived from energy (electricity, gas, steam generation and cooling), as well as sewerage and telecommunications. SB 565 places a cap on the amount that can be collected by the state of Indiana through this tax at $214 million per year.

“If this cap was in effect this year, the savings to utility industries could be as much as $20 million this year. While advocates of this cap claim it also will benefit consumers as well, we are talking about literally pennies each year, not millions.

“This is why Democrats attempted to include some relief for average Hoosiers in this legislation when SB 565 was debated in the Indiana House. However, our proposals to remove the state retail tax from being charged on feminine hygiene and adult incontinence products, as well as textbooks for college students, failed to get any support from House Republicans.

“But what should concern most Hoosiers about the implications of this cap is that it represents another example of the majority getting rid of substantial sources of state revenue on a piecemeal basis. We continue to reduce the burdens on corporations across Indiana, while doing little or nothing to help Hoosiers handle the bills they face on a daily basis.

“What always seems to happen is that we start small and reduce taxes for big business and the wealthy, then decide to accelerate it until it is gone. As a wise man once said, ‘A million here, a million there, pretty soon you're talking real money.’ Remember what happened with the state inheritance tax, which hardly affected anyone except the very wealthy. First we decided to phase it out, then decided we couldn’t wait and repealed it, which means a loss of up to $170 million a year.

“What should worry all of us is that we are running out of broad-based corporate taxes to cut. We have eliminated the inheritance tax and continue to cut the corporate and financial institutions taxes. Before long, the only major sources of state taxes and funding that we haven’t cut will be the insurance premiums tax and the cigarette tax.

“As a result, all of our state’s revenue generating capabilities are falling into one basket. That’s the sales tax, which is very regressive and one of the first to slump in a recession. We are playing with fire here, and it’s Hoosier families who are going to get burned.”

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