Anger Boils At Property Tax Protest

Protesters Toting Signs, Banners Stop Traffic In Front Of Governor's Residence

About 400 people rallied Wednesday outside the governor's residence Wednesday, many of them Marion County residents outraged over steep increases in their property tax bills.

People spoke out and stopped traffic along busy Meridian and 46th streets. Many carried signs and banners protesting the higher taxes in Marion County and throughout the state.

"There's a lot of anger. These guys, they're elected officials," said Frank Otte. "They're in charge of leading us."

"My tax bill went from $2,400 to $8,000, almost a $6,000 increase," said Patrick Perry.

Protesters directed their anger at all levels of government and all levels of elected officials, who they said saw the storm approaching but did nothing.

"I'm here to object tax money going to support the Colts stadium," said Byron Smith. "It's robbing from the poor to pay the rich."

According to estimates by the Legislative Services Agency, property taxes on homeowners were expected to increase an average of 24 percent this year. Steps lawmakers took during the past legislative session were projected to lower the average increase to 7.7 percent.

The relief is to be sent to homeowners in rebate checks after the second installment of property tax bills goes out this fall.

Bills in Washington Township increased markedly, threatening to change the landscape in the neighborhood, 6News' Jack Rinehart reported.

"We're trying to raise a family of four in the Broad Ripple area and we're going to have to make some choices," said Michelle Dessaeur. "We're hoping we don't have to move if this continues. We can't afford to stay in this area and raise our children."

Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson last week called on Gov. Mitch Daniels to convene a special session of the General Assembly to provide property tax relief.

Daniels' spokeswoman Jane Jankowski said the governor's office had no comment on Wednesday's protest. She had said earlier if there was "significant legislative sentiment for the extreme measure of a special session," the governor might consider it.

Andy Horning, a volunteer with Americans for Fair Taxation, organized the protest to lobby for the substitution of a sales tax for property and income taxes.

"Kill the property tax," Horning said, prompting cheers. "It's a dumb tax. It's outdated. Maybe we're a little too late to stop the spanking that's coming now, but we're going to make sure that this doesn't happen again. This is out of control."

Counties across the state have reported hundreds or thousands of property tax appeals.

Some protesters said lobbying state and local government leaders would take too much time and urged a lawsuit.

"All the hard work and credit we've got is going to vanish," said Ronda Staten of Indianapolis.

She and her husband, Michael, own a half-dozen former abandoned houses in the city. They renovated them and now rent them, Staten said.

Peterson suggested that the state take over the child welfare costs that are paid through property taxes, restore an old method of paying property tax relief credits that would have lowered bills more, and pass the rest of a plan to consolidate fire departments and some other government functions in Marion County.

Some top lawmakers all but dismissed Peterson's idea.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said last week that Peterson had offered no new solutions. Among other things, state takeover of child welfare costs and reducing unneeded layers of local government were proposed by Republican senators up to the final hours of the 2007 session, he said in a statement.

Senate Tax Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, said a special session was not a realistic request.

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