Monday, September 9, 2013

James: Income Tax Money Not "Windfall" to Lake County

By Rich James in the Northwest Indiana Times:

I'd rather be a roofer on a sweltering July day than a member of the Lake County Council right now.
The seven council members are feeling tons of heat even though we are sliding into refreshing fall weather.

It seems far too many people are opposed to the council spending the money from the soon-to-be-collected 1.5 percent county income tax.

At least they don't want a nickel of it spent on a salary increase for 1,600-plus county workers who haven't had a raise since 2006.

The council has been cutting costs ever since the state froze its levy in 2007 for refusing to adopt an income tax.

Hundreds of jobs have been eliminated. The remaining county workers – the ones who haven't had a raise while watching their health care costs increase – have sucked it up to get the job done.

The wasteful spending of old has been cut to a minimum. No longer do people roam the halls because they have little to do.

The critics of county government – those who think they can nickel and dime their way to a balanced budget – are the first ones to holler when services aren't what they think they ought to be.

The county needs a 2014 budget that repays some of the $15 million it borrowed to stay afloat this year. It also has no choice but to spend $5 million more for federally mandated jail upgrades.

And rather than continuing to pay outlandish amounts of overtime, the hiring of more corrections officers is vital.

The 2014 income tax money isn't a windfall. Given other demands, it's not enough for employee raises, even though most of them are terribly underpaid.

And, please, I don't need to hear anyone else say they ought to spend the money wisely. The council has learned to do that during these lean years.

I think that's what we elected them to do.