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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Porter County joins RDA effort
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Income tax to double, but County Council hoping for a payoff

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This story ran on on Wednesday, May 25, 2005 12:33 AM CDT

VALPARAISO | Banking on the hopes of a better tomorrow for all of Northwest Indiana, the Porter County Council narrowly agreed Tuesday evening to double the local income tax and use part of the proceeds to take a seat on the newly created Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority.

The 4-3 council vote came after a diverse group of more than 50 people spoke out, a majority voicing their support for the proposal.

"You need to make an investment before you get the results," Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas said.

News of the vote was hailed by U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., as the final step with breaking from the past and heading in a new direction of economic development and job creation.

"There has been a change in Northwest Indiana," he said from Washington, D.C.

County Council members supporting the combined income tax increase and property tax relief package were President Robert Poparad, Vice President Jim Burge, William Carmichael and Rita Stevenson.

Burge said he was impressed by the diverse group supporting the proposal, including organized labor, real estate agents, environmental and religious interests, and local Republican and Democratic leaders.

"I don't think we can throw away that opportunity," he said.

Stevenson said the development authority is needed if the region is to recoup more of the federal transportation tax dollars its residents pay out.

Proposed projects, which include extending the South Shore commuter rail line to Lowell and Valparaiso, expanding the Gary/Chicago International Airport and Lake Michigan shoreline development, will also allow the region to further ease its reliance on the steel industry, she said

"I believe that putting all our eggs in one basket is a mistake," Stevenson said.

Porter County Council member Dan Whitten, who opposed the proposal along with members Al Steele and Laura Blaney, said he, too, shares the dreams of a better tomorrow.

But Whitten said he has too many unanswered questions and has heard concerns from many people over the increase in the local income tax from 0.25 percent to 0.5 percent.

"I can't spend the constituents' money on a leap of faith," he said.

Chesterton resident John Robbins called on the council to oppose yet another tax increase and fuel the economy by leaving the money with the people to spend.

"Let's give tax increases a rest," he said.

Blaney said she was concerned, in part, by the lack of guarantees and the poor reputation of Lake County.

There are also no provisions to get the county out of the program if it fails, she said.

The council suspended its rules Tuesday and approved the tax increase in a single evening.

Porter County's tax increase is expected to generate about $7.5 million, with $3.5 million being used as the county's share to participate in NIRDA. The remaining $4 million is to go toward homestead credits for Porter County homeowners.

Lake County, by contrast, will pay for its seats on the authority with casino revenue.

Porter County, along with Lake County, Gary, Hammond and East Chicago, will receive an appointment on the board. The governor will select the two final members -- one a Porter County resident and the other a member who would chair the board

279 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
More about NIRDA (Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority)

Breakout: What will NIRDA do?
The authority would have the power to issue bonds, grant money to projects and
condemn land. The board would choose the projects by judging proposals it
The projects now include the following:
* Expansion of the Gary/Chicago International Airport, which is projected to need $11 million
in state and local funds for the first round
* Commuter rail spurs of the South Shore Line from Chicago to Lowell and
Valparaiso, expected to cost $25 million to $35 million per year to build and
* The Regional Transportation Authority, soon to be called Regional Bus
Authority, would only be in charge of a regional bus service, expected to cost
at least $4 million per year. The three northern Lake County cities would shed
their own bus costs.
* Unidentified Lake Michigan shoreline projects as part of U.S. Rep. Pete
Visclosky's Marquette Greenway Plan to recapture the lakefront from industrial
* Other unidentified economic development projects

Breakout: Follow the money trail
* First, Porter County residents will pay double the current local income tax,
a 0.25 percent increase that will raise an estimated $7.3 million.
* Next, $3.5 million of the money will go to fund Porter County's seat on the
Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority. NIRDA money will be used for
various projects, including extending the South Shore commuter rail line to
Valparaiso and Lowell and expanding the Gary/Chicago International Airport.
* Finally, the county must, under the law, return the unused portion to
residents in the form of increased homestead exemptions. Porter County
officials estimate the amount will be $3.8 million. Only those who live in and
own their main homes will benefit.

3,403 Posts
I think that this is wonderful news. The "Region" deserves more from the State and is a great asset for Indiana. I also think that the transportation expansion is a wonderful idea and could benefit the Indy area because it will show that Hoosiers are willing to use public transportation. Plus, Indy needs some in-state competition. It will make the two areas stronger.

Also, I am please the State has finally stepped-in and given the Gary-Chicago International Airport what it needs to become a viable alternative!
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