“The Indiana General Assembly acts on behalf of the people of Indiana,” State Senator Hempstead Helpful proclaimed.
“That’s just not true,” I protested. “Just look at House Bill 1166. It passed the House Ways and Means Committee 22 to 2 and the full House 71 to 22 and hardly anyone in the state knew about it.”
“Sonny,” Hemp said. “Those wide margins indicate how important HB 1166 is for the welfare of the public. What does that bill do? It says that if you appeal the assessed value of your property, and win the appeal, your property assessment can’t be raised by the County Assessor for the next four years.”
“That’s strange,” I complained.
“That’s justice, Son. Just-ice!” Hemp declared. “It freezes your assessment and protects you from the wrath of an Assessor who feels disrespected by having his/her evaluation of your property overturned.”
“How often does that happen?” I inquired. “How many appeals are filed each year in each county? How many by residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural and other property owners? What are the success rates of those appeals? And how many successful appeals are reversed by the subsequent actions of the Assessors?”
“Listen, kid,” Hemp was getting heated. “You and your numbers fetish are not relevant to legislation. We, your elected representatives, respond to the people’s concerns. And my office heard many a gruesome story of sociopath Assessors who disregarded the appeal process.”
“It seems like a heavy-handed approach to anecdotal evidence by wealthy property owners,” I commented. “Big businesses can afford the attorneys and experts needed to file a successful appeal. The ordinary homeowner is in no position to go through the process and win. And why the secrecy?”
“There was no secrecy,” Hemp objected, offended. “All routine legislative processes were followed. The problem, if there is one, starts with the media failing to cover the story. The House committee voted on February 2 and the media that day was covering a Pennsylvania groundhog, not the happenings at the Indiana Statehouse.”
“But how can you say this bill helps the people?” I wanted to know. “The Legislative Services Agency has said ‘This bill will result in lower AV [Assessed Value] for some properties for up to four years. The lower AVs will lead to higher tax rates, tax shifts to other taxpayers, and possibly lower local revenues because of higher tax cap losses in some places.’”
“Youngster,” Hemp admonished, “When the biggest business interests in this state benefit, we all benefit. As the President of GM told Congress many years ago ‘What’s good for General Motors, is good for America.’ It’s the Indiana right there on the State Office Building wall, ‘A State that Works.’”
Thus, I added, as I do whenever that motto is mentioned, “for whom?”