Lake County Council passes income tax

2013-05-06T18:47:00Z 2013-05-07T15:51:10Z Lake County Council passes income taxBill Dolan, (219) 662-5328

CROWN POINT | The Lake County Council passed a county income tax Monday.

Anti-tax protesters, who made up at least half the crowd of more than 200 who came for the tax decision, didn't sway four Democrats on the county fiscal body.

For the second time in 28 days, the Democrats formed the majority who voted to impose a 1.5 percent assessment on the personal income of county residents as well out-of-state residents working in Lake County.

Council members Ted Bilski, D-Hobart; Elsie Franklin, D-Gary; David Hamm, D-Hammond; and Jerome Prince, D-Gary supported the tax.

Council members Christine Cid, D-East Chicago; Dan Dernulc, R-Highland; and Eldon Strong, R-Crown Point, voted no.

The measure now moves to 8:30 a.m. Friday before the Lake County Board of Commissioners.

If two of the three commissioners carry out their promises to kill the income tax with a veto, it would return the tax to the County Council for another vote, as early as May 14, where a supermajority of five council members would be needed to override a veto.

County officials faced a similar dilemma in December 2007 when the County Council passed a 1 percent income tax, the Board of Commissioners vetoed it and the council couldn't muster the five votes to override it.

Council members listened to more than an hour of comments from Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, who supports the tax, as well as state Rep. Rick Niemeyer, R-Lowell, and 17 others who primarily opposed the tax. They saw it as an unfair burden on working men and women that would only feed an already bloated local government

Pro-tax officials say they have cut more than 300 jobs and tens of millions of dollars from the county budget in the last five years. They said the county cannot reduce spending more without savaging police, fire and other public safety services, which make up the bulk of local government spending, if the income tax fails to pass this time.

Strong said an internal audit and consolidation of county facilities must precede any new tax. Prince said the county has cut before and will cut again regardless, but Strong's plan doesn't add up to enough money.

Bilski said a decade of legislation has eliminated, reduced or frozen business-related tax revenues that have sustained local government in past years.

Commissioner Gerry Scheub, D-Crown Point, said he must veto the tax Friday. He called for a public referendum on the tax.

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