Residents protest taxes in Lake County
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent April 29, 2013 11:04PM
Karin Mason of Crown Point offer comments to the audience on her question about the proposed income tax Monday evening during a informational meeting at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Crown Point. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 1, 2013 6:20AM
Crown Point — Residents who say they are tired of government dipping into their pocketbooks came out Monday for an anti-tax rally at the Lake County Fairgrounds.
About 70 people showed up at the 4-H Building to have questions answered, sign a petition and pick up yard signs opposing the proposed 1.5 percent Lake County income tax. Those attending the session hosted by former Lake County Republican Committee Chair Kim Krull and Alan Katz also were encouraged to contact county councilmembers, whose information was provided, to let their opinions be heard.
“We are getting taxed to death here. Enough is enough,” said John Moos, who moderated the session where Lake County Commissioner Gerry Scheub, D-Crown Point, spoke about why the tax is unfair and former county councilman and current commissioners’ consultant Larry Blanchard fielded questions.
Lake County Councilwoman Christine Cid, D-East Chicago, who so far has been the lone Democrat on the council to oppose the tax, was among those in the audience and also answered questions.
“As you can see this is not a Republican or Democratic issues. It’s our pocketbooks,” Moos said.
The Lake County Council on April 9 approved a package of income taxes including a 1 percent tax that would go directly toward property tax relief, a .25 percent public safety tax and a .25 economic development tax that could be used for infrastructure or other general fund needs.
The council plans to meet May 6 at 4:30 p.m. in the Syd Garner Auditorium at the Lake County Government Center to discuss the tax and possibly act on a second reading. A commissioner’s veto of the tax is expected and the county council would need Cid’s vote to overturn that veto.
Scheub said more cuts are needed before a new revenue source is tapped. He has long been opposed to what the state had long called an “option” income tax because the state legislature had frozen the county’s property tax levy in 2007 until a tax was enacted.
Last week the state legislature lifted that levy freeze even though the county had not enacted a tax, a move that is expected to bring in an estimated $4 million in additional revenue to county coffers. Scheub said that $4 million in new revenue is a start.
He said the county would be in good shape if it did not have to contribute to school funding and mental health, something he said should be financed on the state level. He cited unfunded mandates and lawsuits as the main cause behind the county’s current financial crisis.
Since 2007 the county has cut more than $20 million from its budget but he acknowledged more needs to be done.
“I think for all elected officials (county, town and city) it’s not business as usual. We reduced our budget by $20 million. We can still reduce it by more,” he said to a round of applause.
Harvey Crouch of Highland said this is the first time he has attended any sort of rally or political event. He admits he may not have been paying attention to what was going on with local government in the past, but now he has had enough.
“They got my attention by trying to get into my pocketbook,” Crouch said.