Replacement revenue. That’s what the Indiana General Assembly sees when it looks at the cities and towns hosting casinos. At the top of the list is good ol’ Lawrenceburg.
Lawrenceburg had the most money rolling in out of all of the casinos, that money however wasn’t all tax revenue. Two-thirds of it was from the highly lucrative development agreement.
That development agreement guaranteed the city a nice chunk of cash based on the casino’s overall profits, last year the dollar figure was $23.4 million. It had nothing to do with taxes. So while the city took a hit with changes to the gaming laws, it didn’t take as big of a hit as Rising Sun/Ohio county.
I’ve done the math for everyone before, but here’s a reminder. Lawrenceburg, historically, has given away about 53 percent of its money.
With all that money, of course there has been mismanagement by recipients through the various sharing and grant programs and by the city itself. But let’s stop for a moment and look at some of the mismanagement of the big dollars.
Former Gov. Mitch Daniels has friends with a concept, they want to build a new type of police car, and they’re going to do it at a former Visteon plant in Connersville, Ind. After helping Lawrenceburg protect its riverboat gambling cash, by having the city “voluntarily” share its money with 10-counties in southeastern Indiana, the governor has his friends’ business, Carbon Motors, apply for a grant.
Said grant was awarded, and the money given to the tune of $5 million. The jobs aren’t there, and neither is the $5 million. You don’t have to take my word for it, The Indianapolis Star reported on it last year. You can draw your own conclusions.
Of course that wasn’t the only interesting tidbit involving Lawrenceburg’s money. The governor’s office appoints some members to the grant review committee.
One of those appointed was 68th District Rep. Jud McMillin. He had been a part owner in a building, and his family was involved with a group called Destination Brookville. He did not divulge his or his family’s involvement in DB at the initial committee meeting reviewing a $600,000 grant for the group. It wasn’t until later that the information came to light, and the initial grant was stopped.
McMillin wasn’t alone, however, in being a state representative and having family involved in projects benefiting from Lawrenceburg’s largesse.
Former State Rep. Bob Bischoff had a son and a brother-in-law involved with projects aided by the city, and State Sen. Johnny Nugent sold his business to a company getting help from a Lawrenceburg program.
The Brookville company buying Nugent’s tractor business, Zimmer Tractor, was legally represented by Jud McMillin’s father. The Star had this as well, but you might have missed it. Unlike some other deals/businesses in the 10-county grant program, at least Zimmer Tractor is a business with a proven track record and has deep roots in the Franklin and Dearborn county communities.
While those high profile, legislator-connected misteps remain an issue, the governor and General Assembly should remember there have been many other recipients of the grants that have been and are successful. Among them is the first grant recipient, Greensburg for infrastructure improvements so Honda could locate a factory there. Other recipients include Greendale for Fortis Security and Bed Techs; Dillsboro for Multiple Machining; Osgood for Solar Zentrum North America.
So, when it comes to looking at Lawrenceburg or other casino communities, as a replacement revenue source for making up the missing money due to a change in business or other taxes, Governor Pence and the General Assembly ought to look no farther than the pockets of various friends, donors, and of course representatives themselves.
But using a few alleged misdeeds to radically change the way of life for these riverboat communities is unfair, as is stripping local authority in favor of state authority as is the case with proposed legislation changing port authorities and redevelopment commissions.
Indiana’s Republican dominated government, with control of the governor’s office and both houses of the General Assembly, wants it all their way.
The State of Indiana is not Burger King. Republicans cannot say one day they want small government and complain about the federal government and its mandates, and then turn around to take away local authority not to mention local funds.
Instead of repealing one tax and changing another and capping another, Indiana needs to take a step back and look at comprehensive tax reform.
Hoosier taxpayers, however, from one of the state to the other need to be engaged in the process.
Priorities and needs in Lawrenceburg or Moores Hill or Vevay or rural Franklin County are different than priorities and needs in Carmel or Mishawaka or Delaware County.
Erika Schmidt Russell is editor of The Journal-Press and The Dearborn County Register.