Topic: College of Sciences and Humanities

December 14, 2009

There is strong sentiment among Hoosiers that the Indiana General Assembly should pass a much-discussed constitutional amendment to cap property taxes, says a new public opinion survey from Ball State University.

The Hoosier Survey produced by Ball State's Bowen Center for Public Affairs found that about 64 percent of Indiana residents favored the constitutional amendment, which has been championed by Gov. Mitch Daniels for several years. The survey also found other top priorities for the legislature to be attracting jobs, affordable health care, making government run more efficiently and improving local schools.

"We were surprised by the support the constitutional amendment received, but many Hoosiers are fed up with rising property taxes on their homes and businesses," said Ray Scheele, center co-director and a political science professor at Ball State. "A cap would force local government units to be less reliant on property taxes. But there will have to be mechanisms put in place to allow local governments to raise revenue in other ways, or we'll see major cutbacks in services."

Property tax limits are currently in state law. Starting next year, they will limit homeowners' bills to 1 percent of the property's assessed value. Bills for farmland will be capped at 2 percent of assessed value and commercial land at 3 percent. 

The constitutional amendment was embraced by voters in every region of the state with the strongest support in the extreme northern and southern counties. About 14 percent of respondents were undecided on the issue. 

Ball State's Hoosier Survey provides Indiana lawmakers with public opinion on a variety of highly charged issues to be considered next year. The Bowen Center contracted with the Princeton Survey Research Associates to survey 600 voting-age adults.

The survey's complete results will be announced Dec. 15 at the 18th annual Bingham McHale Legislative Conference in association with INGroup, a publisher of policy and political publications in Indiana, at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown. Scheele and Sally Jo Vasicko, center co-directors and political science professors, and Joe Losco, chair of the university's political science department, will participate in the conference's keynote luncheon panel discussion at noon in Marriott Ballroom 5.

Economy a top priority

The new survey also found that job creation is the top priority among Hoosiers. Seventy-three percent said the state needs to do more to bring jobs to Indiana, even though 53 percent of respondents are either very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with the state's record on this issue. 

"Like the rest of the country, Indiana has suffered terribly during the current recession and there is a great deal of anxiety among Hoosiers when it comes to their jobs," Scheele said. "We have the lowest unemployment rate among the surrounding states, but at the same time, it is a high priority because we are still bleeding jobs. 

"We've been down this road before. In the recession of the early 1980s, Anderson had the nation's highest unemployment, and now Elkhart is among the worst," Scheele said. "I think people realize that state government and economic development officials have worked hard not only to attract new companies, but also to diversify the state's economy." 

If the state needs additional revenues to fund operations, 35 percent of respondents indicated that expanding casino gaming was their preferred method. Extending sales taxes to services with exemptions for medical and legal services was favored by 22 percent, increasing the current sales tax, 13 percent; extending sales taxes to all services, 10 percent; and increasing property taxes, 2 percent.