EDITORIAL: Set aside emotions in vote on tax

2013-04-26T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Set aside emotions in vote on tax nwitimes.com
April 26, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The Lake County Council is playing "beat the clock" in voting on the income tax Friday. In doing so, it must set aside emotions and vote based on what the county truly needs.

Any vote on taxes is highly emotional, and the issue of implementing a new tax is even more so.

Voting for a new tax could mean getting voted out of office at the next election. But this vote must be about the county's future, not about political careers.

Unlike voters and politicians, facts are dispassionate. And the facts support the implementation of a new tax.

Lake County has cut spending but still has to borrow $15 million this year to keep the doors open. That is an unsustainable course. Thawing the frozen property tax levy would generate additional dollars, but not nearly enough.

It is easy to say the county's budget is bloated, so just keep squeezing until all the fat oozes out. A new tax should not usher in a new spendthrift era; pressure must be maintained.

The important thing, though, is to make sure the county's needs are met and that citizens are treated fairly.

Don't like all the spending on medical care and other programs at the Lake County Jail? Remember that county jails are for prisoners awaiting trial, not just for short-term incarceration of defendants found guilty of a crime.

Lake County needs sufficient money not just to pay the current bills -- which the county can't do without the tax -- but also to invest in the county's future.

Invest money in economic development -- including, perhaps, the West Lake Corridor project to extend commuter rail service. Make sure conditions in the county are conducive to economic development so jobs will be generated.

Make sure the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority funding continues as well. The RDA has proven its worth already, leveraging local and state dollars to attract federal and private funds for major projects here that improve the quality of life in the region.

Show the flexibility to do things like create sufficient court space in Crown Point that would allow the county to close satellite facilities -- achieving long-term savings via short-term expenditures. Consolidating the courts in Crown Point could make them operate more efficiently, but doing so requires up-front money.

Politics, of course, plays a major role in the timing of today's vote by the County Council.

The majority on the council don't like the allocation formula spelled out in pending state legislation, and Friday is expected to be the Indiana General Assembly's last day in session this spring.

If that legislation is signed into law, Lake County would get the tax anyway, and its allocation would be spelled out by state law. Thus the council is rushing to vote today, before the legislation could become law.

Lake County is the sole holdout against an income tax. All 91 other Hoosier counties already have one.

This tax isn't popular, but it's necessary. Do the right thing.

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