Who remembers that cute song that taught us about Bills and how a Bill becomes a law? “I’m just a Bill”, as the song goes.
I wanted to share information about a possible Food and Beverage Tax (called an excise tax) for Merrillville. The tax, if approved by the State Senate, and House of Representatives, and then signed into law by Governor Eric Holcomb would provide that tool to the Town Council if desired. It’s not automatic and would require the town to have a special hearing on the topic to get resident feedback and finally we would have to prepare and pass an ordinance that would instruct the State to impose the excise tax.
The tax would only be on food and beverages purchased or carried out from area restaurants and other similar retail eatery businesses. It would not tax packaged unprepared food purchased at your local grocery store or other outlets. I have posted Senate Bill 428 in its entirety as well as the Tax and Fiscal Policy Senate Committee report below that highlights all the details including an amendment that adds the City of Jasper to the Bill.
The percentage of tax is also flexible and would be determined by the Town Council in increments of twenty-five hundredths of a percent (0.25%) up to 1%. That means that either a quarter of a cent, to a half of a cent, or ¾ of a cent, or 1% in total. The tax could never exceed the maximum of 1%. At that rate, the tax would be one cent on every dollar spent on food and beverages.
The Bill also requires the town to only spend funds generated by the tax in specific areas that benefit the town for economic development purposes, stormwater, sidewalks, streets, parks, and parking improvements necessary to support tourism in the town. The list can be found on page three starting at line #28.
I attended the Senate Committee of Taxation and Fiscal Policy hearing on Tuesday, February 23, 2023, along with Councilman Richard Hardaway, Police Chief Kosta Nuses, and town attorney Amalia Gemelas to provide testimony to the committee in favor of the bill. We also presented prior to the meeting letters of support from area restaurants as well as the Crossroads Chamber of Commerce.
The bill was sponsored and introduced by Senator Eddie Melton who represents a large part of Merrillville in Senate District 3. Senator Melton offered that he used to live in Merrillville and has watched past growth and now can see future growth highlighting that prior to the Dean and Barbara White Community Center there was little for the town’s youth to do and how the center and future expansion would enhance the quality of life for Merrillville’s residents and town visitors.
Senator Lonnie Randolph (District 2) prior to voting in support of the bill mentioned that he has ties to Merrillville and complimented the planned growth and great community center. Senator Randolph asked to have his name also placed on the bill after he voted in support of it. The bill passed unanimously with the twelve committee members present. It now moves to the full Senate for consideration. That can be as early as next week. I’ll continue to share details and the status of the Bill as it continues its journey to possibly becoming law. -Rick Bella for The Town of Merrillville.