Local News Politics

Closing Arguments Begin In Charlie White Trial

From the Associated Press:

Closing arguments are under way at the voter fraud trial of Indiana’s elections chief in a case that could oust him from office.

Special prosecutor Dan Sigler Jr. argued this morning that Secretary of State Charlie White knowingly committed voter fraud for political power.

White’s attorney, Carl Brizzi, said in his closing arguments that prosecutors’ case “is based entirely on assumption, innuendo and leaps.” The jury is expected to begin deliberating after today’s closing arguments.

White is charged with seven felony counts, including fraud, perjury and theft. He faces removal from office if convicted of a single count and could be imprisoned.

Prosecutors claim White used his ex-wife’s address on his voter registration form in the May 2010 Republican primary when he actually had a condo elsewhere with his fiance

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Indiana, Amazon Reach Internet Sales Tax Agreement will begin collecting Indiana’s 7 percent sales tax from customers in 2014.

Gov. Mitch Daniels and an Amazon executive announced an agreement today that could lead to Indiana collecting at least $20 million more in annual sales tax revenues.

“They agree with us that all those who sell remotely—internet, catalogue or otherwise, ought as soon as possible to be collecting what is duly owed, taxes owed Indiana and most other states,” Daniels said.

The agreement follows a lawsuit by Indianapolis-based shopping mall owner Simon Property Group against the online retail giant and a lobbying push by traditional retailers to end what they call an unfair price advantage for all online retailers. The suit was dropped today.

The deal with Seattle-based Amazon doesn’t include any other companies, but Daniels says the state is asking Congress to require all online businesses to collect state sales taxes.

Estimates on Indiana’s uncollected online sales taxes range from $75 million to $250 million per year.

(Reporting for this story also came from the Associated Press)


Local News Politics

Audit Finds $300 Million In Uncounted Indiana State Funds

A software error has resulted in a financial surprise for Indiana state government leaders.

Governor Mitch Daniels says the state budget will get an unexpected infusion of $300 million cash from corporate income tax collections that were not properly transferred into the general fund.

The software glitch dating back to 2007 resulted in the funds not being automatically routed from one account to another. The state was always earning interest on the money; it just wasn’t showing up in the general fund.

An internal audit led to the discovery.

“As far as I’m concerned we just drew the Community Chest card—‘bank error in your favor: collect not $200 but something much more,'” said Daniels, referring to the Monopoly board game.

Daniels says he’ll consult with lawmakers on what to do with the money, but he’d like to use it to build up a budget surplus, which could eventually trigger a taxpayer refund.

(Information for this story also came from the Associated Press)

Local News Politics

Daniels To Outline Final Legislative Agenda Next Month

From the Associated Press

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels says he will outline his plans for his final legislative session as governor in a few weeks.

Daniels has already said he plans to push for changes to criminal sentencing laws and a local government overhaul when lawmakers return to the Statehouse in early January.

He also said Tuesday he will announce his position on “right-to-work” legislation soon.

Daniels is entering his final legislative session as governor. The Republican is term-limited from running again next year.

Daniels has previously pushed ambitious agendas with a fair amount of success. He says the agenda he’ll announce in a Dec. 16 speech “just might” expand beyond sentencing and local government reform.

Local News Next Louisville Politics

States To Finance Big Four Bridge Renovations

David Karem (photo by Dalton Main)The Kentucky and Indiana state governments have agreed to put a total of $20 million toward renovating a rusting railroad bridge between Louisville and Jeffersonville.

The Big Four Bridge has long been slated to be converted to a pedestrian span, but money to put a walkable surface on the bridge has not been available. Waterfront Development Corporation president David Karem says a portion of the funds will be available soon to start preparing the bridge for resurfacing.

“We’ve been working with the transportation cabinet and they will help us access part of this money this spring. The first thing we’ll be doing is removing all the railroad ties off the bridge. We’ll be doing repair work that needs to be done on the bridge,” he says. “We’re working right now on the bid documents, and they should be out. Literally, within a week or so we’ll actually start bidding the work on the demolition and the repair work on the bridge.”

The rest of the money will be released this summer, and the entire project is slated to be complete by 2013. The City of Jeffersonville will put $2 million toward building a ramp on the Indiana side of the span. Louisville’s ramp has already been built using donated money.

If proposed changes to the Ohio River Bridges Project go through, the Big Four Bridge will take the place of previously planned pedestrian lanes on a new downtown bridge.

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Daniels Orders Budget Cuts

Indiana tax collections continue to fall short of projections, and that has prompted Governor Mitch Daniels to order spending cuts and other steps to offset a budget shortfall.

Daniels says revenues are off more than $300 million thus far this fiscal year, and if the trend continues without cuts, the state’s reserves will be wiped out by next August.

The governor is directing state agencies to cut spending by ten-percent, reducing reimbursements to some Medicaid providers and says the state will offer voluntary unpaid leave for the rest of the fiscal year.

Daniels says he doesn’t know yet if there will be any job cuts.

“Up to this point, we have managed economy in state government with few if any involuntary terminations, except for poor performance. I can’t say that will remain the case here. We’re going to try our very best. If anyone is displaced, we will put them at the front of the line for any openings that occur in state government,” Daniels said

Daniels says there will also be no pay hikes for state workers in 2010.