Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

State News

December 24, 2013

Proposed taxes would benefit programs

(Continued)

“I’ve come to the belief, based on best-practices evidence, that if we want to drastically reduce the crime rate and recidivism, we’ve got to provide local communities with the proper funding,” Steuerwald said.

It’s a tough assignment. The 2014 legislative session not only comes during an election year, but it comes during an off-budget year. The state’s biennial budget, which runs till June 2015, was locked into place in April 2013.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley said it would be tough to re-open the budget to raise or re-direct taxes. One reason is the historically unbudgeable alcohol tax itself.

Kenley took his own shot at raising the alcohol tax back in 2009, but his proposal to raise a penny on a bottle of beer went nowhere. One case made by opponents: Adding a penny of tax to the price of a beer may not seem like much, but bars that now charge $3 for a beer are more likely to charge $3.25 with a new tax. That fired up beer drinkers.

But Kenley also said the impact of the new criminal code law is still unknown since it’s yet to go into effect. He points to conflicting reports released earlier this year. One said the law will boost the costs to counties if judges divert more offenders into local programs; another said state prisons will bear the initial increase because judges will be reluctant to send offenders into treatment programs rather than jails.

“The alcohol tax may be a potential new revenue source at some point,” Kenley said. “But we have some bigger questions about the fiscal impact of the (criminal code) law that still need to be answered.”

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com

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