(WSBT photo)

(WSBT photo)

SOUTH BEND — Wasting no time, St. Joseph County Council member Mike Hamann filed paperwork today declaring his candidacy for mayor of South Bend.

At the same time, the Democrat announced a proposal to cut the county wheel tax by 50 percent.

"We at least owe it to the taxpayers in the community to give it a try, to give it a shot," the former county commissioner said during an impromptu news conference inside the county clerk’s office.

Technically a local option tax on vehicle registrations, the $25 wheel tax provides money to repair and maintain roads and streets in the county.

Hamann, who represents District C on the council, said he plans to introduce legislation to reduce the tax to $12.50 in the coming weeks.

Though enacted by the county, the tax is a mayoral issue "in the sense that it does affect the taxpayers of South Bend, and as I’m moving forward with my agenda, I’m trying to re-establish trust with the taxpayers," Hamann, 51, said.

Revenue lost under the proposal, he said, could be made up with a combination of County Option Income Tax and Economic Development Income Tax dollars and Major Moves money.

This is not the first time a 50 percent cut to the wheel tax has been proposed. County GOP candidates proposed the same thing last year as part of a contract with the residents of St. Joseph County.

<b>Other candidates</b>

Today was the first day for major party candidates in Indiana to file a declaration of candidacy for the May 3 primary. The filing period ends at noon Feb. 18

In addition to Hamann, Democrats Pete Buttigieg, Mike Dollinger and Ryan Dvorak also have expressed interest in becoming the city’s next mayor.

Both Dvorak and Dollinger plan to file Friday, and Buttigieg "in the next few days," according to his campaign manager, Mike Schmuhl.

Responding to Hamann’s proposal to cut the wheel tax, Dollinger, 51, a business representative for WorkOne, said today: "My initial reaction is that cutting taxes is probably a good thing ... but I think before I comment much further I want to take a look and see what impact it would have as far as revenues for the city."

For his part, Buttigieg, 28, a former economic development consultant and candidate for state treasurer, issued a statement reading: "Every election season we hear promises about cutting taxes, but the hard part is how to pay for it without harming services. The only way to do that is through more efficient management, which is where my business experience can come in handy."

Dvorak, meanwhile, a lawyer who also represents District 8 in the House of Representatives, said the proposal is "worth looking into, and I’d be happy to talk about it with Mike." He agreed with Dollinger that it would depend on the revenue situation.

Along the same lines, the 36-year-old noted that he introduced legislation in 2004 that would have exempted senior citizens from the wheel tax but that it died in the House.

On the Republican side, county GOP Chairman Chris Riley said today the party does not plan to make any announcements at this time regarding the mayor’s race.

Current South Bend Mayor Stephen Luecke, a Democrat, announced in December he would not seek re-election to a record fourth term, guaranteeing the city new leadership next year for the first time in 15 years.