MARK KIESLING: Lake County should pay the tax piper now, or pay him later

2012-11-18T00:00:00Z 2012-12-20T21:25:34Z MARK KIESLING: Lake County should pay the tax piper now, or pay him later nwitimes.com
November 18, 2012 12:00 am

Lake County's little toe is in the pond of debt, and it makes me wonder how long it's going to be until the county starts going down for the third time.

The Lake County Council on Tuesday approved borrowing $15 million either from Porter County or through the private bond market.

"I held my nose, but I voted for Richard Mourdock," said a long-time Republican of this election just passed.

Last I heard, Mourdock, who got his clock handily cleaned by Democrat Joe Donnelly in the vacant seat for U.S. Senate, is still undergoing delicate surgery to remove his foot from his mouth over last-minute comments about rape, God and abortion.

Lake County might likewise have the opportunity to vote in haste and repay in leisure.

Yes, the county's fiscal situation is desperate, unless you want to skip all that nonsense like roads, waterways, the county jail and other services.

But the alternative is that word of death, the one most commissioners and councilman utter the way Clark Kent says kryptonite: Taxes.

Yeah, I think taxes stink, too. But the fact remains that of Indiana's 92 counties, only Lake remains without a local income tax.

Now, let's look at the picture, bad as it is. If we borrow a boatload of money from Porter County (as have some local municipalities already) we are going to have to pay back $51 million with interest.

I don't know what kind of deal they got, but Lake County's going to have a pretty penny to pay to the piper, even if it's down the road.

On the other hand, should the county once more grab its nose and vote in a local tax, all the money will go to local projects, not to bondholders or lenders.

All the money our pols can't fit in their pockets, but that goes almost without saying. Almost.

Not everyone on the council was whooped up by the potential of borrowing: Republicans Rick Niemeyer of Lowell and Dan Dernulc of Highland voted against the proposition.

But the cabal of Democrats -- Elsie Franklin of Gary, Christine Cid of East Chicago, Jerome Prince of Gary and Mike Repay of Hammond -- went for it.

(These cities, by the way, have already borrowed from Porter County to stay afloat).

And speaking of afloat, where's that much-vaunted casino money from boats docked in (you guessed it) Hammond, East Chicago and Gary?

But it's easier to jettison a local tax now and pay the lenders later, maybe when you are out of office.

Councilman Ted Bilski, D-Hobart, was out of town when the vote was taken. Don't know where he was, but maybe he saw the handwriting on the wall.

The opinions are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at mark.kiesling@nwi.com or (219) 933-4170.

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