As our legislators are doing their thing this winter in Indianapolis, a new report shows how their past efforts have affected local government.

You might complain about your property taxes, but maybe you shouldn’t.

A new study shows local property tax revenues in Indiana have dropped roughly 40 percent since their peak in 2005.

For this long-view, big-picture information, we can thank the Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute.

Its report shows how Indiana has replaced some of the lost property tax income — but not all — by raising income taxes.

As a result, local government spending per capita has “retreated to 2002 levels, and capital expenditures have declined even further,” the institute reports.

“Do downsized local budgets compromise service quality, livability, infrastructure and economic competitiveness?” the report asks.

The state has responded to one weak spot by sending local governments more money for streets and roads. That’s an area where problems — and improvements — are easy for Hoosiers to see.

After a decade of telling counties to pass “wheel taxes” if they want better roads, legislators finally took responsibility for a challenge that is a statewide problem — not just a local issue. We still have to drive on the roads of neighboring counties, even though we don’t get to vote on whether they keep them in good shape.

Harder to spot is the pressure being placed on local governments for criminal justice. The state is sending low-level felons back to county jails, but paying a barely adequate rate toward the cost.

We need to learn more about why our prisons and jails seem to be growing more crowded. What’s wrong with our justice system, and our society, that finds so many people locked up?

Our state-budget priorities assume that better education is the long-term answer to many of our problems, but we need shorter-term answers. too.

Surprising opinions on smoking

Count us pleasantly surprised by the results of the annual constituent survey conducted by state Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn.

The survey found strong support for increasing cigarette taxes and raising the legal age for smoking to 21.

The survey is not scientifically random, but some 1,400 people responded online and by mail.

Raising the smoking age and cigarette taxes both found greater than 70-percent support.

A survey conducted by a legislator likely draws answers mostly from that lawmaker’s supporters. In Kruse’s case, that would mean the answers come chiefly from conservative Republicans.

Kruse’s survey found 76 percent support for raising the tax on cigarettes. However, a bill to do so seems to be stalled in the General Assembly.

Raising the smoking age saw 71 percent in favor. A bill to do that got a favorable vote in one Senate committee, but was shuffled to another committee where its fate remains uncertain.

On the topic of smoking, we might have a disconnect between voters and legislators.

OUR VIEW is written on a rotating basis by Dave Kurtz, Grace Housholder, Michael Marturello and Steve Garbacz. Publisher Terry Housholder is also a member of the editorial board. We welcome readers’ comments.

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