EDITORIAL: Proposed Lake County wheel tax is one tax too many

2013-02-17T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Proposed Lake County wheel tax is one tax too many nwitimes.com
February 17, 2013 12:00 am

For the past few years, Lake County government leaders have favored the irresponsible practice of borrowing to make budget, running up taxpayer debt rather than facing the painful but necessary political music of adopting a local option income tax. We support such an income tax and have repeatedly said so in several editorials. What we don't support is using the revenue from such taxes as an excuse to continue the wasteful ways that have long characterized the fiscal decisions -- and indecision -- of our county government leaders. And we certainly don't support discussions of the local income tax opening the floodgates for our political leaders to push forth additional taxes to nickel and dime taxpayers.

That appears to be what is happening, however, with a proposal for a local wheel tax -- to fund county road repairs -- simultaneous with the proposed income tax. This idea needs to be parked at the curb along with any wasteful county-funded take-home cars that some political leaders are still driving.

Lake County Council President Ted Bilski, D-Hobart, said recently that he would like council members to reconsider later this year passing a tax on vehicles to raise an estimated $10 million for road construction. Bilski said he is open to discussions on whether to impose a flat tax on vehicles or a small percentage of a vehicle's value, similar to the state's excise tax on vehicles.

We are open to a different discussion revolving around the cutting of additional patronage jobs, perks and the passage of a local option income tax to generate the real revenue needed to keep county government afloat. The concept of a local option income tax has been debated, vetted and shown to be the most responsible way of getting Lake County government's fiscal house in order. Let's not confuse the issue with the road noise of a proposed wheel tax.

It is time to rip off the painful political Band-Aid of passing the income tax. But let's not mistake this act as an all-purpose pass to pillage the coffers of the residents of Lake County -- coffers already stretched thin by a struggling economy and job market. County government leaders should pass the necessary income tax and then live within their means -- just as their constituents must do.

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