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Daniels makes way to Greencastle Wednesday, touting property tax plan

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Gov. Mitch Daniels, on his way around the state touting his new property tax plan Wednesday night, addresses a local crowd.
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels told a capacity crowd at DePauw University’s Peeler Art Center Auditorium Wednesday evening that local government should trim its spending if revenue under his proposed property tax relief plan comes up short.

But despite his major property tax policy announcement Tuesday night, questions from the audience and Professor Ken Bode, who shared the stage with the governor and moderated the discussion, kept Daniels’ talk focused largely on other state issues and national politics.

The governor answered questions from Bode on topics ranging from the difference between presidents Ronald Regan and George W. Bush, both of whom he served under, to his experience touring Indiana in his RV while he campaigned for governor.

It wasn’t until Bode asked for questions from the audience and Putnam County Council member Keith Berry came forward that the issue of property taxes surfaced.

Berry asked how the governor’s new plan, which caps property tax rates at one percent of a home’s assessed value and adds other tax ceilings, among other things, will impact local government.

Daniels said local government budgets, including schools, have grown at an rate of six to eight percent annually, while the income of Hoosiers has only grown by three to four percent.

This means that the counties and school districts need to “restrain local spending,” he said. If this fails, counties can still resort to the local option income tax.

Earlier this month, the County Council voted to put their vote on whether to adopt the local income tax on hold, pending Daniels’ announcement.

Sue Murray, the Democratic candidate for Greencastle mayor, asked Daniels about a state highway department study to reduce traffic bottlenecks on U.S. 231. A study sponsored by the state found that the primary backups on US 231 between Interstate 70 and Interstate 70 and Interstate 65 were at Crawfordsville, Lafayette and Greencastle.

Roadwork on U.S. 231 has fixed the problems at Crawfordsville and Lafayette, though construction in Greencastle isn’t even on the state’s 10-year priority list.

“How can we get on this 10-year list? Murray asked.

After saying that an examination of construction priorities by the Highway Department put the Greencastle U.S. 231 project relatively low on the list, Daniels told her that he would look into the issue to see if it needs to be reexamined.

Bode spent much his discussion with Daniels, Gertrude and G.D. Crain Jr. lecture series, with questions about the 2008 presidential election.

Daniels, a Republican, told the crowd that while the country has been ready for a woman president for years, Hillary Clinton is not the best woman to assume that honor.

“If she wins, I will really regret that my party didn’t find a female leader first,” he said.

When Bode asked Daniels for a prediction on who would win the Republican presidential nomination, the governor, who has endorsed Arizona Sen. John McCain, didn’t flinch.

“Wild guess? I’d say (former New York Mayor Rudy) Giuliani,” he answered.

Daniels’ talk provoked few laughs from the audience, which was a mix of DePauw students and faculty members and local residents, though he didn’t doge questions, either.

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