Tonight, the Griffith Town Council will make a major decision – whether to contribute to regional economic development by designating a portion of the town's County Economic Development Income Tax proceeds to aid in expanding the South Shore Line to Dyer. We encourage council members to vote yes.
The passage of the 1.5 percent county income tax will lead to a big boost in revenue for the town in 2014. What's needed for this railroad expansion is a fraction of the 0.25 percent income tax devoted to economic development.
Economic development funds should be used as an investment to grow the tax base and additional operating money for future years.
Several CEDIT plans currently on file show short-sightedness — spending these investment dollars for operating costs like raises and street repairs that should be covered by the general fund. Once this money is spent for those purposes, it's gone forever with little chance of impacting the future development of the region.
Griffith should join Lake County, Munster, Hobart, Highland and Whiting in designating a portion of its new economic development income tax proceeds to extending the South Shore Line.
Although the extension will be several miles away, the improved transit opportunity to the Loop and downtown Chicago would make Lake County a more desirable location for Chicago commuters and lead to faster population growth. That would expand the tax base in Lake County, which would benefit every city and town in the region.
If we invest wisely today, the need for future tax increases or spending cuts will diminish as we grow in the future.
Lay tracks for the future instead of frittering away this new money on short-term priorities.