Regulations, taxes and the rebound of the recreational vehicle industry were the topics Lt. Gov. Susan Ellspermann heard were important in Elkhart County during a visit Tuesday afternoon.
Ellspermann has the goal of traveling to each of the 92 counties in the state to listen to what politicians, the agriculture community and business leaders have to say about the needs in their counties and their perceptions of state government. She will compile those comments into a report for Gov. Mike Pence sometime around Thanksgiving. The report will then be used to consider policy changes and legislation for the 2014 General Assembly, according to Ellspermann.
She met with government and business leaders at Das Dutchman Essenhaus in Middlebury and then ag leaders at Weeber Farms on C.R. 20. During the meetings she heard from leaders in the recreational vehicle industry and ended her day with a tour of the new Grand Design RV company in Middlebury.
“They were very appreciative last year of the passage of right to work,” Ellspermann said of what RV leaders told her. “We always knew that was an important job attractor for the state of Indiana. That came up a couple times, appreciation for all the things we have done. ... If you are a business you are trying to be successful. So, what can we do as a state to ensure, whether it is taxes, regulations or right to work, to make sure this is a good place to do business?”
Ellspermann said a common concern across the state by business owners and farmers is regulations. No specific rules or regulations were targeted for change by those attending the meetings, but overreaching regulation in general by state and federal agencies were a concern.
“It would be no surprise that overregulation is a concern whether it be state or federal and how do we help do what is required to ensure we have safety and the quality of the products without overregulation,” Ellspermann said. “It was a very helpful, high energy discussion about the things they are doing.”
Kelly Huffman of Goshen said after the luncheon at the Weeber farm that she expressed concern that her company, Nuway Construction, has to wait too long for state approval of a stormwater plan for any construction undertaken.
Dwight Moudy, a spokesman for Elkhart County Farm Bureau and Blake Doriot, county surveyor, stepped outside the Weebers’ bank barn along C.R. 20 where the luncheon was held and agreed that regulations were a major topic.
“The biggest issue was overregulation,” Doriot said. “Let the people of Elkhart County and the state of Indiana do what we do best.”
“We have some of the best and brightest people in the world here,” Moudy pitched in, “and they don’t want to hurt this community because they live here.
“Whether it is sewer or septic, construction or manure, it is just crazy how they want to regulate every phase of our live,” Moudy said.
She also said Elkhart County government leaders expressed concern that the proper share of the local option income taxes are not being returned to the county’s governments. She said the concern stems from the high number of out-of-county workers in Elkhart County and undocumented workers and if those workers are filing income tax returns.
In February Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman expressed concern that not all of those taxes are getting back to local governments in a timely manner.
The tax is collected through employers and then moved to the state’s general fund. Distribution to counties is based on tax returns filed. Kauffman said in February the state should deposit LOIT funds into a separate account and keep track each month of the money paid into the fund by employers.
Rep. Wes Culver of Goshen authored a bill in the Indiana House that would have called for better state tracking of LOIT, but that bill failed to pass.
“We will research that with the department of revenue and try and get an answer and if there is an opportunity to do that better,” Ellspermann said. “I don’t think we have any illusion that we do everything perfectly at the state and that may be the best part of this tour is to understand how well we are working together in many ways and how we can work better together.”
Ellspermann said that while problems and regulations were discussed, so was the success of the local recreational vehicle industry and other businesses. “Many of them saw the economy turning the corner,” she said. “The RV industry is finally seeing people being able to get credit and make purchases to bring that industry back... There are certainly some positives that we are seeing in Indiana.”