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September 22, 2013

HOWEY: Indiana needs a tax abatement for home building

We need jobs.

In the five years since the mortgage bubble burst, Wall Street went into meltdown and the taxpayers from Main Street bailed the 1 percenters out, I survey friends and family who, in 2007 were quite doing well.

And today, most of them struggle.

We live in a state with a persistent jobless rate of 8.4 percent, and well over 250,000 Hoosiers are officially unemployed. Hundreds of thousands more are underemployed, working two or three jobs. The U.S. Census Bureau reported this week that while the median U.S. household income is at $51,017, Indiana is at 9 percent below, at $46,707.

Utterly unacceptable.

“Generally, we’re looking at sort of a lost decade for Hoosier families,” said Derek Thomas, a senior policy analyst for the Indiana Community Action Association. He told the Associated Press that unless effective policy changes are made, the next decade is likely to follow the trend.

I had lunch with a boyhood friend of mine from Michigan City, Rob Jagger, who owns Old Fort Building Supply in South Bend.

When I asked the inevitable “how’s business” question, I got that pained look, the kind of expression one has when they batten down the hatches. I see that look from businessmen all across the state.

The problem is, this storm that began in September 2008 is still raging, even though the Great Recession officially ended some two or three years ago.

Washington, D.C. is in a state of gridlock. There are no solutions to be found with that dysfunctional mob of pretenders.

What could we do?

Jagger observed that in scores of Indiana communities, tax abatements are given to businesses willing to relocate or expand.

“What about a tax abatement for someone who wants to build a new house?” he asked.

It would work like this: you want to build a new house, or add on an in-law quarter for Mom, who just ain’t what she used to be. So the state could come up with a program that grants you a five-year property tax abatement, just like the big corporations and businesses get.

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