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Furthermore …

Pence reveals compassion gap

This is, after all, the season of giving and caring, and Monday, just two days before Christmas, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence wrote a letter to President Barack Obama and a Federal Emergency Management Agency official to again ask for some caring and giving.

The issue was FEMA’s denial of Pence’s request for disaster assistance for peoplewhose homes or businesses were damaged or destroyed by a series of storms and tornadoes that whirled through Indiana last month.

FEMA turned down an earlier request for federal aid to victims in Howard County in the form of grants to individuals and low-interest loans to individuals and businesses.

“We continue in our commitment to help Hoosiers who have been devastated by the storms from November 17,” Pence wrote, noting that officials had since confirmed major damage in five other counties as well.

In his seven-page letter addressed to Obama and Regional FEMA Director Andrew Velasquez III, Pence details the suffering and needs the storms created for people in those counties, noting that the numbers of elderly and poor in some of these areas is well above the national average. He asks the government to reconsider its denial of aid as soon as possible.

First of all, Pence is absolutely right. The storms wreaked havoc in many parts of Indiana, and the hardest-hit counties deserve disaster relief. This is, after all, what the centuries-old compact between the states and the federal government is all about. Americans are all in this together. We pay taxes into Washington, and we should get assistance back when a problem is beyond the state’s resources to resolve.

Those people in Howard, Boone, Daviess, Fountain, Grant and Tippecanoe counties need help, and they should get it.

But, as a separate question, why does Pence beseech the government to help here and yet spurn the federal offer to pick up the tab for expanding Medicaid to cover people who make too much for the state’s existing Medicaid cutoff and too little to qualify for tax credits from an Obamacare marketplace plan? To us, there is no philosophical difference between asking the government for help for storm victims and accepting the government’s help for poor people who need medical care.

Pence discerns an ideological difference, though, and that punctilious distinction will leave thousands of Hoosiers helpless to deal with medical care crises in their own lives, starting next Wednesday, in all 92 Indiana counties. Sadly, unlike storms and tornadoes, these individual disasters were wholly preventable.

Tax cut would prove costly

What’s not to like about a tax cut? Plenty – if you’re the taxpayer left to pick up the difference while another taxpayer enjoys the break.

That will be the effect for many Hoosiers if Gov. Mike Pence’s push to repeal the tax on business equipment is approved by the Indiana General Assembly. A report from the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency shows that making up the $1.1 billion collected on business personal property – revenue that supports schools, libraries, cities and counties – would require a sizable increase in the individual income tax rate. The statewide average for a family with taxable income of $75,000 would be an increase of $577 a year.

The figure is higher for manufacturing-heavy counties. DeKalb County residents would face a 1.4 percent increase in the income-tax rate to make up the $11.4 million the county collects on business equipment. Families earning $75,000 a year would pay an additional $1,050 annually. Allen County residents at that earning level would pay an additional $480 a year to make up the $51.9 million now collected from businesses. Noble County’s increase would amount to $743 a year.

Of course, the General Assembly could repeal the tax without substituting another revenue source. That would shift the burden to property owners who have yet to hit the artificial tax caps. More taxpayers would hit the ceiling and the losses to schools, libraries, cities and counties would grow even higher.

Hoop dream plays out in wrong court

When you make a mistake, how long does it take you to admit you’re wrong? A day? A week?

If you’re the Indiana High School Athletic Association, it appears that 22 years may not be long enough.

The Indianapolis Star this week told the strange tale of Shane Schafer, a Porter County probation officer who once was deemed ineligible to play a season of basketball for Andrean High School in Lake County. That was in 1991.

As a junior, Schafer had taken a semester off from school because of a sinus condition that required two surgeries. After his parents consulted with the school and decided to have Schafer repeat his junior year in order to prepare himself properly for college, he asked the IHSAA to let him retain two years of athletic eligibility. But the association refused his request and even tried to deny him half his senior-year eligibility.

After court rulings in his favor, Schafer was able to play basketball his senior year, though a broken hand kept him out part of the season. But as Star writer Tim Evans recounted, long after Schafer graduated, the IHSAA refused to accede to a string of court rulings in favor of the young man, appealing and re-appealing decisions that ordered the association to reimburse his family for legal fees.

In the latest of many court rulings in Schafer’s favor, the Indiana Court of Appeals this month upheld a lower court’s finding that the IHSAA’s efforts were “frivolous, unreasonable and groundless.”

Will that ruling, penned for the appeals court by retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall Shepard, end the IHSAA’s vindictive battle against the now 39-year-old Schafer? Don’t count on it. Bobby Cox, IHSAA commissioner, told The Star no decision has been made about whether to appeal again to the Supreme Court.

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