Rich James: Mitch wins the Lake County war
Thursday, August 09, 2012 6:38 AM
MERRILLVILLE – It appears that Gov. Mitch Daniels has won his financial war with Lake County.
If you look closely, you can see a white flag being waved from atop the county government center.
Daniels in 2007 signed a bill freezing the levies of tax districts across the county. It was punishment, he implied, because the county had refused to adopt a local option income tax. The operative word there is “option.”
Yeah, the county had the choice but opted not to impose the tax and as a result is suffering the consequences. Go figure.
There are those in Lake County Democratic circles who think Daniels set out to do a couple of things with his call for the income tax and resulting levy freeze.
Had the tax been enacted, it would have hurt the Democrats who control most corners of the county.
But the thinking is that Daniels is pleased that the tax wasn’t adopted. With the levy frozen, taxing units essentially are losing money each year as they don’t have the cash to pay for rising costs.
As a result, the county and towns and cities are being forced to make personnel cuts – massive cuts. And those cuts – much to the delight of Republicans – are eroding the Democratic Party’s patronage army.
Lake County government, which already has cut hundreds of personnel, including police officers, is facing as much as a $15 million shortfall for 2013. Some $6 million of that is the result of a federal mandate for more jail spending.
The outlook is so grim that some county officials irresponsibly have raised the possibility of eliminating the sheriff’s helicopter unit and sinking the marine operation as well.
While Hammond Mayor and county Democratic Chairman Tom McDermott, Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland have called for adoption of the income tax to end the levy freeze and provide income tax revenue, not enough county councilmen and county commissioners are listening.
The county council has four votes to pass the income tax, but two of the three commissioners (Gerry Scheub and Fran DuPey) would veto it.
And with three county councilmen – Republicans Rick Niemeyer and Dan Dernulc and Democrat Mike Repay – opposed to the tax, the council can’t muster the five votes needed to overturn the veto.
Such is life in Lake County where too many politicians are more worried about reelection than the common good. These are the same politicians, by the way, who refused to take a stand to keep the Regional Bus Authority alive.
So, it appears that you have won, Mitch. Lake County, which at times was full of bluster, never took up arms.
It all reminds me of the story about how they got the horse down to an ear of corn a day and wondered why it died.
Dan Dumezich of Schererville sits on the Indiana Election Commission because over the years he has raised a plethora of money for the Indiana Republican Party.
The late John Curley, who was Lake County Republican chairman when he died almost three years ago, often criticized Dumezich for taking so much money out of the county for the benefit of downstate Republicans.
Well, he is at it again. Dumezich is hosting an Aug. 15 fund-raiser at his home. The featured guest is Karl Rove, who pretty much ran the George Bush White House.
This is a pretty hefty one. It cost $500 a person or $750 a couple. And if you want your picture taken with Rove, you’ll have to come up with $2,000.
This is what it’s come to, a picture with Karl Rove for $2,000? So sad.
Rich James is the former editorial page editor and columnist for the Post-Tribune in Merrillville.