Analysis | From transit, to climate, to basic services: A changing trajectory for Bloomington’s income tax proposal

An op-ed written by Bloomington’s mayor, Democrat John Hamilton, published Friday morning in The Herald-Times, tries to make a case for Bloomington’s city council to enact a quarter-point increase to the local income tax.

The Friday morning op-ed by the mayor resurfaced the idea of a quarter-point local income tax increase, after a six-week period of public silence on the part of city councilmembers.

That six weeks is measured from July 16, when Hamilton re-introduced the topic of a local income tax increase, after first announcing the idea on New Year’s Day—as a half-point increase.

Even if the headline to Hamilton’s op-ed reads, “We all have a decision to make,” it’s elected representatives, like city councilmembers, who will take the deciding votes.

Adding a quarter point (0.25) to the local income tax rate would generate about $4 million for Bloomington and a little more than $4 million for Monroe County and Ellettsville governments.

Possible timing for the city council’s action would include a first reading at a special meeting on Sept. 9. That could be followed a week later by a second reading and final vote on Sept. 16.

Hamilton’s op-ed attempts an argument for quick city council action  by raising the specter of possible future moves by Indiana’s Republican-dominated General Assembly: “The state legislature may well reduce or eliminate our ability to accomplish new revenues by next spring (they already changed the voting requirements earlier this year).”

For Hamilton, the preservation of essential government functions is an important reason for the tax rate increase. That’s based on the final sentence of his op-ed: “This prudent, proposed investment is needed to meet the daunting challenges that we face in common, and to sustain the basic services on which we all depend.”

The timing issue, when combined with one stated purposes for the tax increase, makes for a pitch that goes something like this: The city council needs to act now, in case the state legislature takes away Bloomington’s ability to pay for basic services.

Two separate issues stand out as dubious in connection with that pitch. One is the question of urgency. The other is the question of purpose. Continue reading “Analysis | From transit, to climate, to basic services: A changing trajectory for Bloomington’s income tax proposal”