Bil Browning

Indy Mayor Reverses Support for Domestic Partner Benefits?

Filed By Bil Browning | August 10, 2012 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: domestic partner benefits, Greg Ballard, Indianapolis, political shenanigans, straight couples, TIF districts

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard has never met a promise he hasn't broken. While the Republican mayor had previously expressed support for domestic partner benefits for city workers, now he's Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballardwaffling and claiming about the most dubious reason humanly possible.

"I'm wavering right now," Ballard said during an interview in his office. The reason: the measure would offer health insurance and other spousal benefits not only to employees' same-sex partners, but also to their unmarried opposite-sex partners. Council co-sponsors have resisted restricting the proposal only to same-sex partners.

"A disincentive to marry, for those couples who can get married -- on a policy basis, I worry about that," Ballard said. "In my mind, those who get in trouble with the law usually come from families that are not together. That's just the thing with me."

Mayor Ballard has previously been mostly supportive of the LGBT community. He testified against a proposed statewide constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages and civil unions. He launched the city's first investigation of anti-gay public accommodations bias after a local bakery refused to serve a college LGBT group. So why the sudden cold feet on a no-brainer?

According to Republican gay blogger Gary Welsh, it's a showdown over taxes and economic development.

Let's get this straight. The issue for Ballard has nothing to do with morality. Ballard is now sending out signals that he will veto the proposal unless the Democrats move forward with his TIF expansion proposals, which would allow even more developing areas of the downtown to be taken off the tax rolls as revenue sources for other taxing districts so the mayor has an even larger slush fund from which he can dole out multi-million dollar public subsidies to his fat cat contributors. TIF districts already consume more than 10% of the entire county's property tax base, representing nearly $100 million a year in revenues that can be unilaterally spent on "economic development" the mayor alone deems is appropriate.

Both Democrat and Republican mayors have abused this tax loophole to provide tax havens for big money developers and companies. While the city is continuously facing budget woes, the mayors keep removing lucrative portions of the city's downtown to become Tax Increment Financing areas.

Need a quick primer on TIFs? Here's the Wikipedia description:

TIF is a method to use future gains in taxes to subsidize current improvements, which are projected to create the conditions for said gains. The completion of a public project often results in an increase in the value of surrounding real estate, which generates additional tax revenue. Sales-tax revenue may also increase, and jobs may be added, although these factors and their multipliers usually do not influence the structure of TIF.

When an increase in site value and private investment generates an increase in tax revenues, it is the "tax increment." Tax Increment Financing dedicates tax increments within a certain defined district to finance the debt that is issued to pay for the project. TIF is often designed to channel funding toward improvements in distressed, underdeveloped, or underutilized parts of a jurisdiction where development might otherwise not occur. TIF creates funding for public or private projects by borrowing against the future increase in these property-tax revenues.

The problem? Instead of using the districts for public projects, politicians have been using the incentive to allow private companies to build massive projects tax free. From hotels to parking garages, the city has rewarded big campaign donors by stripping finances from the city and putting it directly in the pockets of these contributors.

So while the mayor claims that he's worried straight couples won't get married and they'll lead a life of crime and mayhem because they're able to buy insurance policies at a higher tax rate, the posturing is pure bullshit.

Instead, he's holding gay and lesbian couples hostage to put more money in his campaign coffers and his donors' pockets. Talk about encouraging crime...

The City-County Council is expected to pass the measure with overwhelming bipartisan support next week. If Republicans stand up to the mayor over the issue, they'll have a veto-proof majority.

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