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Opening Arguments

Carrot and stick for deadbeats

I was a fan of Gov. Daniels' tax amnesty plan in 2005, which critics said would just reward scofflaws and not raise much money anyway. But according to the final report on the plan, more than $244 million in delinquent taxes was raised. The governor's original projection, I believe, was for about a fourth of that amount. For scofflaws not to benefit, the state would have had to carry through with it announced intention to bring out the stick for those delinquents who chose not to take advantage of the carrot. And it did, though not nearly as much was raised through that punishment as through the amnesty.

Now, Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi has instituted an amnesty plan for thousands of parents who owe delinquent child support:

To make his point -- and perhaps grab attention for the monthlong amnesty plan -- Brizzi made examples of a dozen parents who he said have demonstrated they are unwilling to provide for their children. The men are now the targets of arrest warrants and criminal cases.

"All of these people, all 12, had the ability to pay child support," Brizzi said, "but they refused to do so."

I feel the same way about this amnesty plan as I did about Daniels' -- it's a good way to get the money flowing -- but since it's the welfare of children we're talking about, it's even more important for the amnesty granters to be serious about the stick as well as the carrot. So Brizzi's preemptive move -- cracking down on the worst deadbeats ahead of time -- seems like a smart move.