The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Local Politics

April 9, 2013

County council discusses wheel tax, squabbles over cellphone use

ANDERSON, Ind. — The wheel tax and cellphone use created heated debates Tuesday night at the Madison County Council meeting.

Council members heard opposition to the proposed return of the Madison County wheel tax, which has received countywide support in recent weeks. Since the repeal of the tax in 2012, municipalities have claimed to face shortfalls in maintaining roads and infrastructure. Residents of Elwood, Alexandria and Anderson told the council they oppose the tax, and said a struggling community like Madison County has more important problems than whether or not to raise taxes.

Local officials such as Anderson Deputy Mayor Pete Heuer and Council of Governments Executive Director Jerry Bridges spoke in favor of bringing back the tax. No vote was taken, but a majority of the now Democrat-controlled council seemed to support a resolution that would reintroduce the tax.

The state’s Republican majority’s proposed budget would increase road funding for INDOT by $112 million annually, and would provide another $101 million for counties, cities and towns. Madison County will not be eligible for the funds because the tax was rescinded in 2012. The budget requires counties to have a wheel tax in place to receive the funds.

The tax is optional, and 45 counties have opted not to implement it.

“It appears the state realizes we have a shortfall,” Heuer said. “The state expects counties to have these taxes to receive this funding.”

Councilwoman Robin Wager said the county needs to act and bring the tax back.

“If the county isn’t helping ourselves, the state won’t help us,” Wagner said.

Councilman Rick Gardner, who has opposed the tax, called it unfair, and agreed the counties should have to pay in if they want to receive the extra funding.

Four people in attendance took the podium to speak against the tax before council President John Bostic declared the council had to move on to other business.

In a contentious showing of disharmony among council members, the council also approved a motion banning cellphone use in meetings by a 4-3 margin. Councilwoman Lisa Hobbs told Councilman David McCartney he was being rude by using his cellphone during the meeting and asked that phones be banned.

McCartney and Gardner said they wanted to keep their phones at the meeting to take important notes and conduct business. After a few minutes of heated argument about whether the phones should be allowed, the council approved the motion. McCartney said he would still use his phone.

“How are you going to enforce that?” McCartney asked Bostic.

Find Jack Molitor on Facebook and @AggieJack4 on Twitter, or call 640-4883.

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