Public AffairsGovernment / October 9, 2013

Lugar on Shutdown, Debt Ceiling, Indy Police

Sam Klemet
Lugar on Shutdown, Debt Ceiling, Indy Police

Former Indianapolis Mayor and U.S. Senator, Richard Lugar, says there is plenty of blame to go around when it comes to the government shutdown and thinks there is a chance Congress will not agree to raise the debt ceiling.

Lugar served six terms in the Senate and worked through his fair share of contentious issues.

But, he says the current government shutdown is a case of Congress being poor negotiators.

"It's my way or the highway.  That type of attitude has been coming on strong now in the Congress for a while," he said.  "It's being exemplified really by the President, too, for that matter.  Both parties are hoping that the public blames the other one more. But, neither is doing a very good job."

When it comes to next week’s deadline to raise the debt ceiling, Lugar believes it could come down to the final hours, and there is chance some members of Congress will dig in their heels to stop it.

"They are idealistic enough to believe that our country has so much debt now that, as a matter of fact, if we have any more, this will be a tragedy by itself," he said.  "So, if you ask them 'how do we pay our bills?' They would say it's not simple."

"In other words, they would say this is so much of a tragedy, that this is the thing that ought to preoccupy our thoughts and therefore you seal off things by not borrowing more."

And he says that poses a real threat to the nation’s economic stability.

"The danger is clearly economic catastrophe in this country," said Lugar.  "If we've been worrying about jobs now for a long time - and that was the prime issue for a while - about some type of progress in terms of whatever educational systems we have, health systems, the security of our country, and security we provide to the world.  Those used to be the things that were most important, as opposed to simply our debt.  It's a very different set of goals."

The U.S. has until October 17 to raise the ceiling or it will be unable to pay its bills.  Since 1960, Congress has raised the debt ceiling 78 times.

Local Homestead Tax Credit
Locally, the City County Council is scheduled to vote on the 2014 budget, Monday.

One of the main issues is how to fund hiring additional police.

Mayor Greg Ballard and some Republicans wanted it done by phasing out the Local Homestead Tax Credit, which they say will free up $9 million to pay for 80 more officers.

But, the idea was struck down in committee.

"My inclination would be that public safety usually comes first and that some modification of the homestead tax credit may be necessary," said Lugar who served as Mayor from 1968 to 1976.

Councilors who voted to keep the credit say eliminating it would mean a tax increase on people who can’t afford it, about $22 per year on average.