RICH JAMES: Lake Republicans need to meet new reality

2013-04-10T00:00:00Z 2013-04-11T13:16:04Z RICH JAMES: Lake Republicans need to meet new realityBy Rich James nwitimes.com
April 10, 2013 12:00 am  • 

It’s time for Lake County Republicans to get in touch with reality when it comes to a county income tax.

No longer can Republicans hide behind the no-new-taxes mantra of their brethren in Washington.

Because government on all levels in Lake County is suffering because of a state-imposed levy freeze, something has to be done. The freeze is punishment for failure to enact the tax. Lake is the only Indiana county without one.

And speaking of Republicans, has anyone heard word one from state Sen. Sue Landske, of Cedar Lake, and state Reps. Rick Niemeyer, of Lowell, and Hal Slager, of Schererville, about fighting to get the levy freeze lifted? I didn’t think so.

No one likes a new tax. But a declining quality of life — which is what we are experiencing — shouldn’t be acceptable either.

It has come down to this. The Lake County Council on Tuesday initiated the process for enacting an income tax that would provide property tax relief, money for public safety and funding for economic development, including roads, drainage, transit and just about anything deemed to be economic development.

Voting to adopt the income tax were Democrats David Hamm, Ted Bilski, Jerome Prince and Elsie Franklin. But Democratic County Commissioners Gerry Scheub, of Merrillville, and Mike Repay, of Hammond, are opposed. Repay got elected last year after campaigning against the tax. Scheub feels the county shouldn’t be forced into adopting an “optional” tax. He’s right, but isn’t being realistic about the need.

With a commissioner’s veto, Democratic Councilwoman Christine Cid would be the fifth vote needed for an override. She voted against the tax Tuesday but has said she wants to know the feelings of her constituents at a public forum before a final vote.

That brings us to Republican Councilmen Eldon Strong and Dan Dernulc, who voted against the tax. By the way, have you heard those two publicly beseeching Landske, Niemeyer and Slager to get the levy freeze rescinded? I haven’t either.

Just this week, Strong and Dernulc said the county can cut its way out of financial trouble. Hello, the county has been cutting since the 2007 levy freeze. How many more cops do you want off the streets?

Collectively, their plan is financial foolery. It would save little more than chump change. And it would do nothing to help the financial crises Highland, Merrillville and other towns are facing.

Enough of the charade. Wouldn’t it be nice to put government service before politics?

And don’t look for Niemeyer, Slager and Landske to support Dernulc and Strong. They know as members of the Legislature that Lake County won’t get much of anything from the state until it adopts the tax. They just won’t say it.

Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years. Email him at rjames@219.com. The opinions are the writer’s.

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