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‘Gary bill’ in ‘state of flux’

Updated: May 29, 2013 7:16AM



INDIANAPOLIS — Senate Bill 585 might end up removing the Lake County levy freeze in order to save the other economic benefits in it for Gary.

While the bill that could provide economic opportunities for Gary and Lake County faces an end-of-the-session deadline, Senate Bill 585 author Ed Charbonneau reversed directions from telling Lake County where the money for it’s county income tax would go to just removing the property tax levy freeze.

On Thursday morning, Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, had a draft that if Lake County approved a county income tax, it would designate exactly how the county could use the tax.

But by the end of the day, Charbonneau was considering the version passed by the House, which would require that the state lift the property tax freeze and prevent the state from imposing any local tax.

“It’s in a state of flux,” said Charbonneau. “We’re in the last 24 hours of the session, where things can change within minutes.”

His original draft would spell out how each quarter of a percent of the county income tax would be allocated. This would range from property tax relief, public safety, transportation and other designations up to the first 1.5 percent. The county would choose how much it would pass, but where the money goes would be predetermined.

But by the afternoon, with the Lake County Council announcing a meeting at 4:30 p.m. Friday and House members insisting they wouldn’t support the bill, Charbonneau reconsidered his position.

“I was under the impression that the only way to save the bill was to consent,” he said, “because we couldn’t get the House to go along with what I put in the conference committee report.”

“I would have liked to have seen the county act before now,” he said. “They haven’t, so we’re placed in a situation where we’ve got to act and without knowing for sure what the county will do.”

As of 6:20 p.m. Central on Thursday, he had not yet agreed to concur to the House version, which would include Rep. Hal Slager’s amendment that removes the Lake County property tax levy freeze.

“That’s been my philosophical debate — trying to impose a tax on the county is wrong,” said Slager, R-Schereville. “I think it’s better for us to go with the House version of the bill.”

Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, said she’s willing to accept the House version as well.

“I think that Gary was placed in a position to either lose some of our the economic benefits or take Slager’s amendment,” Rogers said, “so when I weighed the two, I figured we’d take Slager’s amendment and go forward with what’s important to Gary.”

Rep. Charlie Brown added that he would prefer to see the county have the freedom to determine where the revenues go if the county passes the tax.



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