After a tense, white-knuckle, nail-biting process, it's finally official. Lake County has adopted an income tax, just like every other Indiana county. Now it's time to make sure the money is spent wisely.
Lake County Council President Ted Bilski deserves credit for pushing through this tax on a 4-3 vote. Likewise, Commissioner Mike Repay deserves credit for taking the painful but necessary step of not voting to veto the tax. His was the swing vote, and it swung in the right direction.
Now that the tax is in place, a potential financial disaster has been averted. The county, as well as other units of local government in the county, will be solvent.
But this is not the time to go on a spending spree. Pressure to cut expenses must continue.
Lake County taxpayers are understandably worried about this additional money going toward additional waste. There is a long history of disappointment in Lake County, which is why residents must keep their guard up. But there are many positives as well.
Remember that a chunk of this money will go toward property tax relief, not new spending.
As for the rest, Lake County's elected officials must prove the money will be spent wisely.
Lay out a cautious spending plan, and then follow up to show how that money was spent.
Show which government services are self-sustaining through user fees and other means.
Indicate how much long-term remains, why each debt was incurred, and when it will be paid off. Perhaps it would be smart to use some of the income tax proceeds to accelerate repayment of those debts.
Look also at ways to build a regional public transportation system that spans northern Lake County so riders can get to their jobs, shops, homes and other destinations with the least hassle. Do it in a way that provides an essential service but at a reasonable price.
However the money is used, make sure it's strategic, frugal and above all not wasteful. Spend it wisely.