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The Journal Gazette

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Friday, May 19, 2017 1:00 am

National anti-tax group imposes its view on city debate

Any proposal that takes dollars out of people's pockets deserves thorough examination and intense discussion. At least two public hearings followed by council discussion are scheduled before the City Council votes in July on a plan to increase the local income tax.

Backed by Democratic Mayor Tom Henry and three other council members, Republican City Councilman John Crawford proposed the increase to help fund riverfront development and repair city streets, alleys and sidewalks.

Crawford, who organized a special council session in January to encourage the community to think about revenue needs and options, argues that the added assessment would be a small price to pay to improve neighborhood infrastructure and complete a centerpiece development that could pump new jobs and new tax revenue into the community.

At a meeting Wednesday sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, three council members announced their opposition to Crawford's proposal, suggesting the city find alternatives to finance completion of the project at the center of Fort Wayne's effort to become the kind of place that can keep and attract more businesses and workers.

Republicans Jason Arp, Paul Ensley and Russell Jehl could have held their piece until the public had its say, though it could be argued that the three were simply responding to a stance four of their colleagues had taken earlier.

But it is much harder to understand why Indiana Reps. Chris Judy and Bob Morris felt compelled to insert their views into the debate, especially at this early stage. Statewide policy has empowered and encouraged local governmental bodies to take on an increasing share of the decision-making on tax issues. Legislators ought to concern themselves with Indiana policy, not put their thumbs on the scales of local revenue decisions.

Even less appropriate, though, is AFP's intrusion into the process. A national advocacy organization backed by industrialists David and Charles Koch, AFP shows a knee-jerk aversion to any and all tax increases. So far this year, the group has waded into tax debates in Missouri, South Carolina, Louisiana and Texas.

And now, the Koch Brothers-inspired group has arrived in Fort Wayne to help the council make its decision.

To ensure that its anti-all-new-taxes message gets out, the organization will support a campaign that will include phone calls, door-to-door canvassing and social media advertising, AFP State Director Justin Stevens said.

The AFP has the right to deploy its views and strategies here, as it does elsewhere. But decisions about the future needs of our community need to be made by the people of Fort Wayne and the council and mayor they've elected.