News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 4, 2012

Duke Bennett teaming with other mayors to reach legislature

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett and several other Hoosier city executives are joining forces to get their voices better heard in the Statehouse.

Bennett will be joined today in Indianapolis by a bipartisan group of Indiana mayors launching a campaign they are calling “Trust Local.” It’s designed to “return control of Indiana government to neighborhoods and communities,” according to a media advisory issued Tuesday by the organization.

The campaign will also attempt to “educate voters to elect candidates in 2014 who have a strong commitment to local authority and local decision-making,” the notice states.

Reached in Indianapolis on Tuesday afternoon, Bennett said the “Trust Local” campaign is not designed to confront lawmakers but simply to give local governments a stronger voice in the General Assembly.

“We know best what’s going on locally,” Bennett said. “”We want to have more regular dialogue with them.”

Bennett pointed to the state’s property tax caps, passed in 2008, as an example of a state law that needed more local government input before being adopted. Many cities and towns, such as Terre Haute, didn’t have a property tax problem, Bennett said. The caps were a response to high property taxes around Indianapolis and should have been dealt with there, he said.

“More research should have been done on that,” Bennett said.

Indiana’s tax caps, now part of the state’s constitution, cap residential property taxes at 1 percent of a home’s assessed value. Caps are 2 percent for farmland and rental property and 3 percent for business property. The caps have resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in savings to Hoosier taxpayers since they took effect.

However, those tax savings have been at the expense of local governments, which have been forced to make cuts in spending to compensate for those lost property tax revenues.

The mayors will be launching their “Trust Local” campaign today at the Omni Severin Hotel in downtown Indianapolis. Other mayors scheduled to participate include those from South Bend, Westfield, Goshen, Lebanon, Whiting and Evansville.

Bennett said his focus at the meeting will be to speak in favor of a state law to make pseudoephedrine a prescription-only drug in order to better prevent methamphetamine manufacturing.

Indiana local governments already lobby state lawmakers through the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns. But this new campaign, sponsored by the Indiana Conference of Mayors, is solely for mayors and will be more focused on concerns of mayors, Bennett said. IACT’s membership is so broad it is often difficult to find issues about which all town managers, clerk-treasurers and mayors feel strongly, he said.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or