Government

Hoosier Heartland Highway pumps up hope on prairie: Expressway construction starting two years earlyRestricted Content

March 17, 2008
Chris O\'malley
LAFAYETTE-For years, they've driven on little more than paved-over wagon trails pioneers carved into the hills nestling the Wabash River. Motorists on State Road 25 between Logansport and Lafayette have grown desperate for a replacement: the final, 33-mile western leg of the "Hoosier Heartland Highway." Today, the Hoosier Heartland expressway ends in Logansport-the western terminus of a newly improved, four-lane U.S. 24 that runs east, to Fort Wayne. But last month Gov. Mitch Daniels surprised highway proponents with word that...
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RETURN ON TECHNOLOGY: Just when you thought airport lines couldn't get any longerRestricted Content

March 17, 2008
Tim Altom
This isn't a column about business technology per se, but I couldn't resist the temptation to write about a half-dozen states thumbing their noses at the federal government and potentially backing up travel this spring at airports all over the country, including some of the world's busiest, all over a piece of plastic. After the tragedy of 9/11, one of the 9/11 Commission's recommendations was to create a hard-to-fake identity card for Americans. In 2005, Congress passed a huge defense...
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NOTIONS: Variations on the theme of March MadnessRestricted Content

March 10, 2008
Bruce Hetrick
March Madness is upon us-that glorious season born in a Springfield, Mass., peach basket and now headquartered, literally and spiritually, in the Hoosier state. That means, of course, high-pressure conference tournaments; Big Dance brackets and pairings; controversial selections and exclusions; friendly wagers; blowouts; upsets; scoring runs; dry spells; lead changes; come-frombehind victories; heartbreaking defeats; and last-second, game-winning three-pointers. But in only the first week of the third month of the Gregorian calendar, it's clear-from personal life, to the recession (er...
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ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: How the property tax reform plans stacked upRestricted Content

March 10, 2008
Mike Hicks
As this year's short legislative session comes to a close, I want to recap the property tax proposals that were bandied about. I probably should begin with the problem. Though Hoosiers pay less in state and local taxes than most Americans, the growth in state and local tax bills has been way out of sorts with income growth. Also, in some places, property taxes are astoundingly high-and in the most expensive places, taxpayers are not getting anything like the value...
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STATEHOUSE DISPATCH: Thorny tax issues remain as scheduled adjournment nearsRestricted Content

March 10, 2008
Ed Feigenbaum
The closer we get to March 14, the date the 2008 legislative session is scheduled to end, the less optimistic people seem to be about reaching agreement on a property tax relief and reform package that will attract sufficient bipartisan support and be structured in a way that meets the requirements of Gov. Mitch Daniels for his signature. The biggest problems in private legislative negotiations appear to revolve around how to fund local government and school shortfalls, as well as...
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Commentary: When is the right time to sell?Restricted Content

March 10, 2008
Mickey Maurer
Like the song says, "You gotta know when to fold 'em." But how do you know when it is the proper time to sell a business? Age and health issues aside, I suggest the "trigger" moment is when there is a looming fundamental adverse change in the industry. One should not sell needlessly. The government imposes a harsh penalty for those transactions. It's called a longterm capital gains tax. I would not fault anyone, however, for a premature exit that...
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STATEHOUSE DISPATCH: Tax turmoil isn't likely to uproot many legislatorsRestricted Content

March 3, 2008
Ed Feigenbaum
Remember the main reason behind the property-tax-reform drive when we started the session? If the anti-propertytax rallies across the state last summer and fall made lawmakers uneasy, the Indianapolis mayoral election result was a slap across the face. They were awakened to the reality that, but for a vote on tax reform, that, too, could be them. The political imperative was overwhelming, as lawmakers feared the worst come primary time. Even if they were to survive an intra-party election, they...
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Insurance insecurities: Data-breach policies touted as way to protect businesses from cyber-related lossesRestricted Content

March 3, 2008
Scott Olson
Several local entities, ranging from St. Vincent Indianapolis Hospital to the state of Indiana to Indianapolis Public Schools, last year experienced wellpublicized electronic security breaches involving confidential data. While the victims of the lapses and those at fault emerged relatively unscathed, such incidents underscore the ease in which personal information can be lost or stolen in today's computerized world. With roughly 165 million people tapping into to the Internet nationally, the opportunities for security breaches are plentiful. Throw in the...
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Bill to help prosecution of environmental crimes dies: State continues to use fines as feds seek jail timeRestricted Content

March 3, 2008
Chris O\'malley
A bill that would have removed hurdles to state and local prosecution of environmental crimes has perished in committee, leaving the federal government virtually alone as the sole seeker of jail time for the worst offenders. With the demise of Senate Bill 199, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management will continue to resolve most pollution cases through civil penalties rather than bringing criminal charges. Last year, IDEM assessed $5.2 million in civil penalties, down from $7.75 million in 2006 but...
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STATEHOUSE DISPATCH: Nitty-gritty details yet to be resolved in tax-reform planRestricted Content

February 25, 2008
Ed Feigenbaum
We've come a long way since the beginning of this legislative session, and lawmakers are edging closer to assembling a property tax reform acceptable to both chambers, both major parties and the governor. Lawmakers faced competing pressures from constituents, the governor, business interests, schools and local governments, and citizen groups as they tackled the issue, but they resolved to labor with a minimum of partisanship. Of course, they frequently make the same pledge when dealing with major issues, but an...
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Office tower bounces back: Renovated National City Center recovering from loss of SimonRestricted Content

February 25, 2008
Scott Olson
Once reeling from the loss of its largest tenant, National City Center now has a rising occupancy rate amid a major renovation that is resuscitating the aging office building. Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group Inc. vacated 182,000 square feet in National City Center by moving to its new headquarters a block away in the fall of 2006. The departure left the 16-story tower at the southwest corner of Washington and Illinois streets 28-percent unoccupied after years of being nearly full. Owner...
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Bond market turmoil could raise costs for stadium, other projectsRestricted Content

February 25, 2008
Peter Schnitzler
The debt strategy Gov. Mitch Daniels' top financial officials developed to save the state money on major projects like Lucas Oil Stadium has turned sour.
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ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Study exposes unfortunate work-force realitiesRestricted Content

February 25, 2008
Mike Hicks
For more than a half-century, we have built complex statistical models to attempt to explain why regions enjoy different levels of prosperity. Virtually every conceivable variable-from ethno-linguistic similarity indexes to existing natural resources to government structures-have been tried, with the models proving enormously successful. One critical insight in this extensive body of research is that human capital-the quality of a labor force-yields the strongest explanation for differences in prosperity. When we apply these models to the United States, the importance...
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VOICES FROM THE INDUSTRY: Protestors shouldn't control community developmentRestricted Content

February 25, 2008
Brian Mann
N e i g h b o r h o o d activists in Pittsburgh are fighting a development that would bring a grocery store, job training center, youth programs and other social services to the area of the Pittsburgh Penguins' $290 million arena. The Pittsburgh group was planning a march in protest. Is retail and commercial development next to a sports arena a bad idea? A Cambridge, Mass., neighborhood group was opposed to the development of three townhomes, arguing...
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Trustee inches toward redeveloping property portfolioRestricted Content

February 11, 2008
Peter Schnitzler
Center Township Trustee Carl Drummer and his predecessors have stockpiled more than money over the years. The trustee's office also holds a portfolio of mostly undeveloped properties worth at least $10 million. Several key parcels have been on the trustee's books-and off the tax rolls-for decades. Drummer has made some progress in finding uses for the properties since an IBJ special report first questioned his holdings in November 2006. But it would have to be measured in inches. The most...
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VOICES FROM THE INDUSTRY: Green building should be the norm, not the anomalyRestricted Content

February 11, 2008
Sarah Hempstead
I cringed when I heard the news: Indiana is second to last when it comes to being green. We're supposed to be America's heartland. But instead of being known for the life sciences, economic initiatives or even our corn fields, we're getting recognized for our dirty air and water. Last year, Forbes conducted a study to find the greenest states in the country. Vermont, Oregon and Washington topped the list. At the bottom: Alabama, Indiana and West Virginia. While Indiana...
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Changes down road for transportation planning group?: Metropolitan Planning Organization weighs mergerRestricted Content

February 11, 2008
Chris O\'malley
The prospect of urban sprawl might swallow up even those agencies tasked with planning for sprawl's consequences. The Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization is exploring a merger with Anderson's MPO, according to the Indianapolis agency's 2008 Unified Planning Work Program report. "The rapid growth of the Northeast Corridor has blurred the boundaries between the Anderson and Indianapolis MPOs; a joint committee is currently exploring whether consolidation is warranted," states the report. MPOs are virtually invisible agencies to the public even though...
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SPECIAL REPORT: Center Township trustee taps taxpayers for millions

February 11, 2008
Peter Schnitzler
At an aging building at 863 Massachusetts Ave., they pass through a metal detector and wait in line to show a clerk their identification and copies of overdue bills. Center Township Trustee Carl Drummer sometimes helps. The Trustee's Office received an average of $6.9 million each of the last seven years, mostly from taxes, to provide poor relief-now known as township assistance. But only about $2 million reached the penniless each year, with much of the difference covering administrative overhead....
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STATEHOUSE DISPATCH: Legislators want tough reforms, but not too toughRestricted Content

February 11, 2008
Ed Feigenbaum
The next two weeks should be interesting ones in the General Assembly, but not for the reason you might expect. Now that bills have cleared their chambers of origin and moved across the Rotunda for consideration, there is a natural lull of sorts as lobbyists breathe a collective sigh of relief and gird themselves to battle with a different set of lawmakers. You saw this in recent days, as committee action again took center stage, and action on the floor...
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Law firms making green push: Environmental teams provide marketing boostRestricted Content

February 11, 2008
Scott Olson
The next generation of environmental law is coming to a firm near you. Many law firms have existing practices that counsel clients on the complexities of complying with air and water permits or cleaning up contaminated properties. But now that the corporate sector is embracing "green" initiatives quicker than Al Gore accumulates carbon credits, environmental law is becoming as sexy as, say, intellectual property. Two of the city's largest firms-Ice Miller LLP and Baker & Daniels LLP-recently unveiled so-called "green"...
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Ex-member: Township board 'bored by the budget'Restricted Content

February 11, 2008
Peter Schnitzler
Although he collects an average $6.9 million each year for poor relief, mostly from taxes, Center Township Trustee Carl Drummer is rarely asked to explain his finances. Drummer's budget is filed-unread-each year in the Indianapolis City Controller's office. The 66-employee Indiana Department of Local Government Finance reviews it, along with budgets from every other taxing entity in the state. Year-end reports go to the State Board of Accounts, a 282-worker agency that conducts 2,700 to 3,000 audits of Indiana counties,...
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INVESTING: How Wall Street firms wounded themselvesRestricted Content

February 11, 2008
Ken Skarbeck
There will be plenty of future litigation over the subprime mortgage mess. The city of Cleveland has sued 21 of the nation's biggest mortgage firms, claiming their s u b p r i m e - l e n d i n g practices created a public nuisance that hurt property values and city tax collections. And the FBI, in conjunction with the Securities and Exchange Commission, is looking into the various players to see if fraud was committed. While...
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ECONOMIC ANALYSIS: Why Hoosiers should shed distrust of referendumsRestricted Content

February 11, 2008
Mike Hicks
Should Indiana's taxpayers vote on school construction? This seemingly simple question is a vexing issue for the Legislature. The debate surrounding the issue is surprisingly misguided and emotional. A few ill-informed editorials have not added value to the debate. Let me add a bit of data to the discussion to enlarge our understanding. Under Indiana's current system of government, no elected official reviews the complete budgetary process for local government spending. This, perhaps more than anything else, has caused our...
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VIEWPOINT: Cookie-cutter schools: a fatally flawed ideaRestricted Content

February 4, 2008
Jason Shelley
What would happen if Congress passed a law requiring every U.S. statehouse to use the exact same building design? And that every city hall, every fire station and library must be built from a canned design? Imagine being told that, from now on, every house in the state would have the exact same design, so homeowners could spend less on design costs. It sounds crazy to think one design fits all, but that's exactly what lawmakers are considering for educational...
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STATEHOUSE DISPATCH: Tax reform nudges state toward a la carte governmentRestricted Content

February 4, 2008
Ed Feigenbaum
Most observers have viewed the 2008 legislative session as one almost singlemindedly devoted to property tax reform. While, of course, that is true, if you step back, a broader truism begins to emerge. This is not only a session destined to produce property tax reform, but one that begins the process of changing the role of government and how it intrudes into the lives of Hoosiers-or how it helps them, depending upon your perspective. Beyond property tax reform, this session...
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