Jerry Davich: New income tax cause for confusion
Windfall or whiplash?
It depends on who you ask regarding the new 1.5 percent income tax in Lake County, the last Indiana county to adopt such a tax. It goes into effect Tuesday after a heated and controversial vote — or lack of one — to veto the tax by the Lake County Board of Commissioners earlier this year.
If you recall, Lake County Commissioner Gerry Scheub made repeated motions for actions to veto it, but fellow Commissioners Roosevelt Allen and Mike Repay did not second the motion. Here we are several months later and Allen, for one, has no regrets.
“We held out as long as we could but the state kept punishing us for not adopting it,” Allen told me. “They forced us to voluntarily adopt it, if that makes sense.”
Yes, it’s one of the few things that makes sense to most region residents regarding this first-ever tax, expected to generate more than $145 million annually. I routinely receive calls, emails and even handwritten letters from Lake County residents and in-county workers who are confused about the tax.
As I told them, I’m more of a wordsmith, not a numbers guy, so I contacted Allen and the Lake County Council office. They, too, have been swamped with queries from people who want more details.
“This tax has helped other Indiana counties, such as Marion County and Hamilton County, with economic development, more jobs and improvement projects,” said Allen, who’s been a commissioner since 2006.
According to the Indiana Department of Revenue, the county tax is formally called a local option income tax, typically used to supplement certain projects that normally are paid for with property taxes.
Property taxes? Those two words quickly raise the ire of most Lake County residents, but a part of this new tax — the 1 percent part — is earmarked for property tax relief. Roughly $96 million is expected to be generated annually through this new tax, to help offset the $109 million levy on property taxes, Allen said.
“That will reduce the general fund levy from $109 million to around $13 million,” he said. “What that means is the first $96 million from the new income tax will substitute for the property tax countywide.”
In addition to that part of the new tax, 0.25 percent is called a “public safety income tax” with roughly $22 million in revenue earmarked for police, fire departments, the courts and so on, as you would expect. The other 0.25 percent, accounting for at least another $22 million, will go toward economic development projects and capital improvements.
In reality, three taxes were enacted in May by the Lake County Council, reaching a bit further into your hard earned and already heavily-taxed wages. Will it be worth it? That remains to be seen.
Lake County certainly has a deserved reputation in this region, and the rest of the state, as a wasteful, bloated and fatty government entity with little fiscal responsibility. I would be skeptical, that’s for sure.
Yet a long line started months ago with requests, suggestions and outright pleas where this new tax money should go. It seems everyone’s hand is held out, like desperate characters from a Charles Dickens novel, for a piece of the new pie.
From a taxpayer point of view, the new tax will be taken out of paychecks for county residents and outside residents working in the county, similar to state and federal withholding funds, Allen said.
“It’s a progressive tax, meaning the more money you earn the more taxes you pay,” he said.
One important aspect to keep in mind is that some employers in Lake County may not be immediately taking out the new tax, so workers should plan for this to avoid being socked later. It’s suggested that you check with your employer for details.
Questions? When county residents and others contact the Lake County Council office in Crown Point, they are referred to instead call the Indiana Department of Revenue, at 769-4267. I expect that office to be receiving more calls before Tuesday.
Social media missives
I regularly hear from readers who do not use social media, for various reasons, but who ask me what I write on, say, Facebook, Twitter or my blog, versus what I write in my newspaper columns.
Here’s a recent sampling of my cyberspace ramblings:
“I am easily annoyed by men who give so little that when they do anything above that it appears as divine intervention.”
“Life is all about expectations and rationalizations — the more of the former typically creates more of the latter, and vice versa.”
“There are few TV “personalities” more annoying than those plastic-smile, Stepford-wife-like women who reveal the Illinois Lottery numbers each night.”
“On this date in 1954, the “Tonight!” show makes its debut on NBC with Steve Allen as host. Every other late-night host has been walking in his footsteps ever since.”
“You know, I’ve learned so much from my mistakes that I think I’ll make a few more and really become a better person.”
“Although “Breaking Bad” is obviously the BEST DARN TV SHOW EVER IN THE HISTORY OF TELEVISION, I have yet to watch an episode and surely I’m the only person on the planet to admit this.”
“Roses are red, pizza sauce is, too ... poetry sucks, mmmmmm ... pizza.”
Speaking of which ...
As a former small business owner of 20 years, this month’s shout-out goes to Da Pizza Joynt in South Haven, which reopened with even tastier pizzas and the ever-popular “pepperoni pinwheels.”
Sadly, I’ve become a pinwheel junkie again but I strongly recommend them, and the thin-crust pizza, to anyone looking for a new joint, located on McCool Road, just south of U.S. 6. To place an order, call 759-5333 and tell manager, Collin Williams, I sent you.
Video of the week
This week’s viral video of the week goes to this adorable daddy and daughter duet, singing “Tonight You Belong to Me.” You can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bpu0TIXzI1w, and say it together now, “Awwwwwww.”
Connect with Jerry via email,
voice mail, at 713-7237, or Facebook, Twitter, and his blog,