Lake County officials are talking about borrowing money from Porter County to make ends meet in its 2013 budget. Loose lips sink ships, and loose budgets sink taxpayers.
The foolish idea is for Lake County government to borrow $15.5 million from cash-rich Porter County government to fund the Lake County Jail, drainage and other government services for which there isn't enough property tax revenue in Lake County.
It's true that Porter County has an enormous nest egg of some $170 million, the proceeds from the sale of Porter hospital. That pot of gold is earning the county around $11 million in interest each year.
The theory is that if Porter County loans money to other units of government, in this case Lake County, it could earn a better rate of return than the county is currently earning on that money.
The problem, though, is that Lake County is talking about borrowing money to make ends meet instead of living within its means. Borrowing money not only postpones the inevitable decision, but also requires the debtor to pay interest as well. That's adding injury to insult.
Deficit spending got the nation in trouble and should not be condoned at the local level.
If Lake County needs to spend more money than it's currently taking in, borrowing money is not the right answer. Either spend less or raise revenue. It's that simple.
Enacting an income tax could provide property tax relief and would end the state-mandated freeze on Lake County's property tax levy. That would have the effect of allowing cost-of-living increases each year instead of continuing to put a tight squeeze on local government spending.
No, it wouldn't be politically popular, and yes, it likely would cost some elected officials their political careers. But if it's the right thing to do, do it anyway. Don't borrow money and compound the problem.
Lake County must focus on sustainability, not on mortgaging the future for spending now.