Bravo to Rich James for his April 10 column. James exposed the two Republican members of the Lake County Council (Eldon Strong and Republican County Chairman Dan Dernulc) for playing politics with the Local Option Income Tax.
As Strong and Dernulc both fully understand, all government units in Lake County have had their tax levies frozen since 2007 (as a result of legislation signed by Indiana's former Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels and enacted by the Republican dominated General Assembly). None of Indiana's other 91 counties has had their levies frozen.
The reason Indiana's Republican governor and members of the Republican General Assembly cite for this unfair legislation that froze Lake County's levies: Lake County needs to implement the local income tax as every other county in Indiana has already done. Or, in Indianapolis speak, Lake County needs to "help itself" if it expects help from the state government.
In my course of discussions with the Republican leaders of our state, I have heard this rationale used numerous times when describing this situation to Democrats. I would think the statewide Republican leaders would say the same thing to their own Republican leaders in Lake County: If you don't pass the tax and "help yourself," don't expect help from Indianapolis.
Over the years, Lake County's failure to "help itself" has been the only excuse lawmakers in Indianapolis need to avoid helping Lake County when there are pending issues in the statehouse.
For example, when we sought assistance from Republican leaders in Indianapolis to fund the repairs for the Cline Avenue Bridge, what excuse do you think the Republicans raised when denying our request? ("Why should we help Lake County with this request when you guys fail to help yourselves?")
Whether Lake County requests increased funding for its roads and bridges, an expansion of our commuter rail lines, funding for regional bus services, or an extension of funding for the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, none of these initiatives will be considered by downstate Republicans until Lake County "helps itself" by passing a local income tax.
Dernulc and Strong are very aware of this fact, yet to the voters of Lake County, they act as though this initiative was orchestrated by Lake County Democrats -- and that is simply not true.
The Lake County Council is divided 5-2, with Democrats in the majority. The two Republicans on this council, Strong and Dernulc, actively oppose the local income tax as an unnecessary tax increase.
When pointed out to these two that the leaders of their own party (Daniels, Sen. Luke Kenley and House Speaker Brian Bosma) all are urging the five Lake County Democrats to vote for the tax, Dernulc and Strong pay no attention.
As chairman of the Lake County Democratic Party, I have to conclude the Republican chairman of Lake County, Dan Dernulc, is either ignoring the wishes of his own party (hardly likely), or is being allowed to discredit the Democratic members of the Lake County Council, while clearly at odds with the wishes of his party downstate.
Just come clean, Dernulc and Strong, and do what the rest of your Republican Party has been telling Lake County to do for years.