News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion

January 21, 2013

READERS’ FORUM: Jan. 21, 2013

Shed more light on development

The Tribune-Star editorial of Jan. 6, 2013, “No diversions, please,” correctly encouraged the Indiana General Assembly to “stay on task” and use the upcoming session to achieve positive and realistic results. The item that caught my attention was the bill introduced by Sen. Mike Delph (District-29, R-Carmel).

Sen. Delphi filed a bill to prevent the Indiana Economic Development Corp., a quasi-state agency handling public-funded tax incentives, from keeping secret the actual number of jobs created by firms receiving those incentives. Delph told Indianapolis station WTHR, “the bottom line is people have a right to know how their tax dollars are being spent.” The Indiana General Assembly website identifies this proposed legislation as Senate Bill (SB) 0162.

The issue of economic development in Terre Haute and Vigo County is both complex and redundant. We have the Terre Haute Economic Development Corp. (THEDC). The THEDC website statement is that it is, “the Lead Economic Development Organization (LEODC) for Terre Haute, Vigo County, Indiana.” Its featured property is the Fort Harrison Industrial Park. Supposedly, its numerous amenities make it “shovel ready” for any interested business.

According to the 2011 Vigo County Taxpayers Association Annual Report, the THEDC budget was $450,000. The budget is funded by $125,000 from the Vigo County Economic Development Tax (EDIT), $125,000 from the City of Terre Haute and $200,000 from private sector contributions. According to the THEDC website, the officers are Steve Witt, president; Claudia Tanoos, vice president; and Lisa Johnson, marketing coordinator. Neither the website nor the Taxpayers Association report provided the salaries of the officers.

Additionally, there is the Terre Haute Department of Redevelopment. This government department provides economic development on behalf of the City of Terre Haute. The Department of Redevelopment administers the Vigo County Industrial Park (I & II), as well as the former Pfizer campus. The 2011 Taxpayers Association report listed Cliff Lambert, Executive Director, as a city official, but it did not provide Mr. Lambert’s salary or any budget information. Additionally, there is the City Redevelopment Commission, which owns the unsold Vigo County Industrial Park parcels and is responsible for developing them. Mr. Lambert was also listed as the executive director of this commission.

Sen. Mike Delph’s bill, SB 0162, needs the support of every Indiana taxpayer, the Taxpayers Association of Vigo County, community organizations and the Chamber of Commerce. We demand the right to know how our money is being spent and who is spending it. We have created economic development and tax abatement “cottage industries” in Indiana. It appears that jobs are created for those who work in economic development or represent businesses trying to obtain tax abatements. Homeowners and small businesses are bearing the burden of misguided economic development and unfair tax abatements.

Hopefully, Sen. Delph’s bill will be supported and passed. I encourage everyone in Terre Haute and Vigo County to contact Reps. Bob Heaton, Clyde Kersey and Alan Morrison and Sen. Tim Skinner to support SB 0162. It is time to turn on the lights and give taxpayers access to all economic development and tax incentive information.

— Gary S. Izo

Terre Haute

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