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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, April 02, 2017 1:00 am

Jehl wants to rework policy on abatements

NIKI KELLY and BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

City Councilman Russ Jehl has a proposal to amend Fort Wayne's tax abatement policy.

Jehl, R-2nd, said Tuesday that updating the policy is necessary to better reflect the council's views.

Tax abatements are a popular economic development tool offered by municipalities to entice business investment. Abatements phase in business personal property taxes over a period of time, typically five to 10 years.

Jehl said he'd like to see the city stop giving abatements to “run-of-the-mill service agencies” and rework the way abatements are granted for vacant buildings. Jehl said he has had productive conversations about the possibility with the city administration and agencies includingGreater Fort Wayne Inc.

“It's time to throw something out there and let people mull on it, pick on it, provide constructive criticisms,” Jehl said, as he asked for input from fellow council members.

Cutting remarks

The Fort Wayne City Council should be more involved in the city budget process, Councilman Michael Barranda, R-at large, said.

“We have an interesting way we do things in Fort Wayne,” Barranda said Tuesday. “The way the budget process works is that the administration gives us a budget and we cut it. That's really an unfortunate way to do business.”

Each year, the city budget is prepared by the city controller's office and submitted to the council for approval. The council is permitted to make cuts to the proposed budgetbut cannot add funding or move funds around.

Barranda said he'd love the opportunity to sit down with Mayor Tom Henry and his staff and work together to craft a budget.

“But that's just not the way it works, at least historically,” Barranda said. “I'm here to say that if that's a process the administration is willing to have, I'd love to be able to sit down and work together on a budget, as opposed to the process that says, 'Here's our budget, cut away.' ”

Battle cry

Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., and Republicans who hope to unseat him in next year's election agree on something: Donnelly is No.1 when it comes to being a marked man.

Donnelly's campaign and the Indiana Republican State Committeepouncedon Senate race rankingsby the National Journal that peggedDonnelly as the most vulnerable Democratic senator facing re-election next year. Each side apparently sees the rankings as a way to build support.

“BREAKING: Indiana seat the '#1 battleground in the country'” was the heading of a fundraising solicitation email sent Thursdayfrom the Donnelly re-election campaign.

“They recognize that not only will the full force of the GOP establishment come after Joe, but their dark money groups will as well,” the email said about the National Journal. Hiscampaign said Donnelly “is going to get attacked to the tune of millions of dollars.”

The same day, the Indiana Republican State Committee emailed a news releasereferring to the National Journal storywith this heading:“Donnelly Ranked Most Vulnerable Senate Incumbent in Nation.”

State GOP Chairman Kyle Hupfer said in the email, “Indiana will yet again be a battleground state in 2018 and the Indiana Republican Party is taking the lead to defeat Joe Donnelly and send a solid conservative Republican who will always stand with Hoosiers to the United States Senate.”

Kokomo attorney Mark Hurt is the only announced Republican candidate for Donnelly's seat. Reps. Todd Rokita, R-4th, and Luke Messer, R-6th,are considering running.

Donnelly is seen as particularly vulnerable because he is a first-term Democratic senator in a largely Republican state where GOPPresident Donald Trump enjoyed a 19-point victory in last year's election. Donnellyis among 10 Democratic senators up forre-election in 2018 in states won by Trump.

GOP speakers

President Donald Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., will be the featured speaker at the Indiana Republican Party's annual spring dinner May 8 at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis.

Information on the event time and tickets will be released this week at www.indiana.gop and through the party's social media accounts.

The president's son isexecutive vice president of development and acquisitions for the Trump Organization.

Meanwhile, the Richard G. Lugar Excellence in Public Service Series has announced that Seema Verma, recently confirmed as administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, will be the keynote speaker at its 27th annual luncheon April 21 at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis.

Verma, a former health care policy consultant based in Indianapolis, is a 2015 graduate of the Lugar Series, a leadership development program for Republican women.

The luncheon will be at 11:30 a.m. at the JW Marriott Downtown. Tickets range from $100 to $5,000 based on level of sponsorship. For information, email LugarSeries@gmail.com or visit www.LugarSeries.com.

Dave Gong of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

To reach Political Notebook by email, contact Brian Francisco at bfrancisco@jg.net or Niki Kelly at nkelly@jg.net. An expanded Political Notebook can be found as a daily blog at www.journalgazette.net/politicalnotebook.