WINAMAC — An expired ordinance that had allowed for tax funding for the Pulaski County Jail was reinstated last month after the Indiana General Assembly rejected a veto Governor Mike Pence issued on a bill calling for its retroactive authorization.
Around the time the county jail was being completed in the late 1990s, Pulaski officials passed an ordinance authorizing the use of tax funds toward the funding and upkeep of the jail, said Pulaski County Auditor Shelia Garling.
This ordinance expired in 2006 and was not renewed, Garling went on to say, which was not discovered by county or state officials until April of this year.
Despite the ordinance not being renewed, it still performed its function, she added, and tax funds continued to be collected and applied toward the jail.
“We were doing what we were supposed to be doing with it,” Garling said of the ordinance.
When the lapse was discovered by the Indiana Department of Revenue, Pulaski County officials were told nearly seven years of taxes that had been put toward the jail may have to be refunded to taxpayers because there had been no legislative backing for the tax since 2006.
That’s when state representatives started drafting a bill calling for the retroactive authorization of the ordinance, along with reauthorizing one for Jackson County’s jail that had expired in 2011. The bill also contained tax breaks and benefits for surviving spouses of veterans.
Pence vetoed the bill, which was eventually overridden by the legislature with a vote of 68-23 in the Indiana House of Representatives and 34-12 in the Indiana Senate.
“When the governor vetoed the bill, that meant we were no longer going to be able to collect that tax,” Garling said. “In order for us to operate and maintain that jail, we had to.”
Pence held a different perspective.
“While this bill contained some positive provisions, the Governor believes that when Hoosiers pay taxes that are not owed, they should be offered relief,” said Christy Denault, Pence’s communications director, in a statement.
Garling said there was a good chance the veto would have ultimately caused taxes to increase in Pulaski, as the county would have had to find a way to make up the jail funds it would have to refund as it continues to pay off the jail’s bond and pay for maintenance costs.
Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org.