General Assembly's Inaction on Tax Reform Harms Both Lake County and Indiana; Special Session is Warranted, Says U.S. Steel President

Mar 15, 2000, 00:00 ET from U. S. Steel Group

    PITTSBURGH, March 15 /PRNewswire/ -- Paul J. Wilhelm, vice chairman of USX
 Corporation and president of U. S. Steel Group (NYSE:   X), said today that the
 General Assembly's inaction on property tax reform issues in the 2000 session
 could have far-reaching economic consequences for Lake County and the entire
 state of Indiana.
     "It was extremely disappointing that the General Assembly adjourned the
 regular session without addressing the critical needs of a fair and objective
 reassessment of property in Lake County and removing welfare from local
 property tax rolls," said Wilhelm.  "The dire economic consequences of not
 resolving the Lake County property tax crisis should have been incentive
 enough for legislators to forge a bipartisan compromise.
     "Now we must hope that lawmakers are called back for a special session
 later this year for another chance to resolve the property tax crisis and
 avert further loss to Indiana of hundreds of millions of dollars of job-
 creating capital investment by business and industry."
     In the past few years alone, some $600 million in capital projects and
 hundreds of high-paying jobs, which could have been located at Gary Works,
 instead went to other U. S. Steel locations in other states.  Many other major
 Lake County employers have also been forced to invest elsewhere because of the
 onerous tax burden.  U. S. Steel has a total tax liability in Indiana this
 year approximating $100 million (about $70 million is for property taxes)
 giving Gary Works the dubious distinction of being the most heavily taxed
 manufacturing facility in the nation.
     "Lake County has been an economic engine driving Indiana for generations,"
 said Wilhelm, "but now Indiana's archaic property tax system is draining the
 county's industrial might, driving away jobs and isolating the county from any
 hope of economic development.  Those who think Lake County's problems are not
 the state's, should realize that the county still generates more sales and
 payroll taxes for the state than any county other than Marion.  Unless there
 is bipartisan cooperation in solving the property tax issue, Lake County will
 continue to stagnate and ultimately become a long-term economic burden on the
     Among the states Indiana is losing jobs and capital investment to is Ohio,
 an aggressive industrial recruiter which recognizes that low taxes are the key
 to economic growth and higher wages for its citizens.  Last year, Standard &
 Poor's ranked Ohio the No. 1 state in the nation based on the value of steel
 produced and processed.  It also said that the industry is now responsible for
 approximately 110,000 direct and indirect jobs in Ohio which generate
 $5 billion annually in total wages.
     "Due to the tax-created plight of Lake County's steel industry, it can be
 assumed that at least some of Ohio's gains in steelmaking have come at
 Indiana's expense," said Wilhelm.  "The Lake County steel corridor would still
 be an ideal location for steel investment, were it not for the onerous, job-
 crushing and unfair property taxes which make it virtually impossible to
 compete in today's intensely competitive global marketplace.
     "Today's high taxes threaten the very economic viability of most major
 industrial employers in the county to the extent that their only alternatives
 -- without property tax reform -- are to develop exit strategies, downsize or
 go out of business.  And, for the long haul, none of these forced strategies
 would be in the best interests of the state of Indiana."
     For these reasons, Wilhelm emphasized, "It is essential that the county's
 problems be addressed in the General Assembly.  Welfare must be removed from
 the local property tax rolls, and a fair, comprehensive and honest
 reassessment of property in Lake County must be undertaken at the earliest
 possible date."
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SOURCE U. S. Steel Group