RICH JAMES: Pull the trigger for Lake income tax

2013-01-30T00:00:00Z RICH JAMES: Pull the trigger for Lake income taxRich James nwitimes.com
January 30, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Since 2007, Lake County governmental units have been in a financial free-fall.

It’s not a pretty picture. It’s government at its worst. And there is plenty of blame to pass around.

The warring politicians have hurt local government and the people it serves while protecting their own political images.

It’s a war that started well before the 2007 General Assembly froze local levies until Lake County adopts a local income tax.

What that means is that while costs go up for all units of local government, there is no new money.

For many years prior to 2007, Lake County legislators have been telling their counterparts back home that if the county doesn't help itself, don’t bother looking for help from the state.

In other words, adopt the income tax.

Speros Batistatos, president of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority and a member of The Times Editorial Board, said it again last week.

“We aren't going to get new money (from the state) until we pull the trigger,” he said.

And Crown Point Mayor David Uran, also a member of The Times Editorial Board, added, “Everything we need to do takes money. If we don’t create new money, we’ll have to take it from somewhere else.”

The lack of a tax is about to take on new proportions.

State Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, essentially said that if Lake County doesn't adopt a tax, the state will halt its $10 million annual funding for the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority.

The RDA has been a godsend for Northwest Indiana. Gary/Chicago International Airport expansion, Lake Michigan shoreline development and transportation projects are among those dependent on the RDA money.

The Lake County Council voted for the tax a few years back, but the county commissioners vetoed the ordinance. The council lacked the necessary fifth vote to override the veto.

The makeup of the council since has changed, boosting hope that there might be five votes to override a commissioners’ veto.

While I still think the state has no business forcing us to adopt a tax, it’s time to cry “uncle.”

Northwest Indiana legislators know there won’t be money for the RDA or other projects until we help ourselves.

As distasteful and politically sensitive that it is, it’s time, as Batistatos said, to “pull the trigger.”

Failure to do so has a negative impact on growth and quality of life. Sadly, it has for many years. We are cannibalizing ourselves.

It should be done soon so the Legislature can act on Northwest Indiana requests, knowing we adopted the tax.

It is time for the county councilmen and commissioners to put progress ahead of politics.

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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