Chesterton Tribune

 
 

Local lawmakers drafting bill to clarify loophole in CEDIT law

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

A joint effort by local leaders in the Statehouse seeks to curb a legal dispute between the Porter County Board of Commissioners and the Porter County Council.

A press release issued Friday afternoon announced that Indiana House Rep. Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso, Rep. Chuck Moseley, D-Portage, alongside State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, and Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, are together drafting legislation to clarify the meaning of statute IC 6-3.5-7-12.7 enacted in 2011 which states that a “county, city, or town” may by ordinance transfer funds that have been deposited in the economic development income tax fund (CEDIT) or rainy day funds to its General Fund.

The statute eased the mobility of taxpayer money from the CEDIT or Rainy Day Fund to the General Fund which allows for greater flexibility for the various councils responsible for making appropriations and handling each municipality’s fiscal affairs, the release said.

A few members of the County Council have interpreted the statute as giving them the ability to transfer unallocated CEDIT funds from the Commissioners’ budget into the county’s general fund but the state lawmakers disagree saying that the law positions a system of checks and balances where the County Commissioners would write up a plan to use CEDIT funds and the County Council appropriates the money.

“All other counties are interpreting it the same way, but ours isn’t, so we’re going to fix it,” Tallian told the Chesterton Tribune.

The new statute will clearly state the roles of the executive body -- the Commissioners -- and the fiscal body -- the Council -- regarding CEDIT.

“By eliminating the vagueness of the code, we hope this new language will clarify the intent of the original piece of legislation,” Charbonneau said.

Earlier this month, County Attorney Elizabeth Knight gave her preliminary opinion that the Council cannot take CEDIT funds because the statute does not say that the fiscal body or the executive body has sole control over the funds, and it would have if that was the intent.

Soliday said the new bill should be drafted by the end of this week and will be considered emergency legislation which means the statute will pass into law as soon as the Governor signs the bill, which will likely be around April. He said he and his peers wanted the courts and the public to know they are addressing the matter by clarifying the process so a potential lawsuit can be avoided. The Commissioners have said that if the Council were to pass a resolution to gain use of CEDIT funds then they would challenge that action in court.

“The taxpayers of the County would pay for the attorneys for both sides. Why should they do that?” said Soliday. Nothing in the law will be changed, he said, only to make the law’s intent more understandable. “Its internal controls so neither side can spend money without the consent of the other.”

 

 

Posted 12/17/2012