WILLIAM NANGLE: Let math, not politics, rule on tax debate

2013-04-17T00:00:00Z WILLIAM NANGLE: Let math, not politics, rule on tax debateBy William Nangle nwitimes.com
April 17, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Enough is enough!

The fray over how to fund government in Lake County has taken a definite political plunge.

State Rep. Hal Slager, a Republican from Schererville, argues his House amendment to Senate Bill 585 to thaw the Lake County tax freeze of 2007 is good public policy. It will, he reasons, allow Lake governments to bring in more revenue without Lake County adopting an income tax.

Well, Mr. Slager has not done his math very well. A thaw of the 2007 tax freeze will not create enough new revenue to meet the necessary expenses faced by Lake County. This includes such costs as a federal mandate to improve the county jail, a state mandate to establish a countywide 911 system and improving transit services.

The answer, though unpopular and painful to the pocketbook, remains adoption of an income tax, something Lake will be the last of Indiana’s 92 counties to do.

This necessary step is clear to all those looking at the hard facts.

What Slager has done, though, is create a political cloud. As one GOP stalwart wrote, “Slager has the Democrats in a bad spot.”

He’s done so, I believe, to make gain for the Republican Party in the county, but he’s doing so at the expense of good government.

Heavens knows The Times has often been critical of Democrats who hold control at the county government complex in Crown Point. We have called for a viable two-party political system in the county.

But the majority of the members of the Lake County Council – all Democrats – have done the statesman-like thing and adopted on first reading an income tax. It’s not something they wanted to do, but an action they found necessary to carry out their responsibility to meet the financial demands of running county government.

I heard Councilman Ted Bilski admit, “This may cost me an election, but it is what we have do.” He is, of course, right.

What irritates me is the obvious game playing by Lake County’s GOP at a time when serious government is needed.

Who is orchestrating the game? Several sources have told me former state Rep. Dan Dumezich is the man behind the curtain. It’s known he has worked the phones and email.

All I can say is that the actions of his party on this important issue are counterproductive to good government.

Unfortunately, the man in the middle over this is State Sen. Ed Charbonneau, the author of SB 585. After the bill sailed unopposed through the Senate, some Lake Republicans lobbied him to accept House changes. The major change, the thaw in the 2007 tax freeze. That would allow the GOP to advance its political game.

Charbonneau, always the consummate good government advocate, dissented at the changes and has forced the legislation to a conference committee.

It must be hoped calmer heads on the committee will prevail and a compromise found that meets the needs of Lake County but stops the political posturing.

To be sure, manipulating the state Legislature to further political goals is not good government.

Creating confusion among the public on such an important issue for political gain is not good government.

As unaccustomed as I am to writing this, the Democrats on the County Council are exhibiting leadership that is good government. They are doing what is necessary, what is right.

So, let the political smoke clear and the council finish its work.

William Nangle is executive editor of The Times. He can be reached at The Times, 601 45th St., Munster, IN 46321 or at bill.nangle@nwi.com.

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