Beck plan to protect Lake County from looming tax losses and spur economic development fails to get House GOP support
INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana House Republicans have opposed another attempt by State Rep. Lisa Beck (D-Lakes of the Four Seasons) to help Lake County cities and towns deal with a looming property tax crisis that could end up costing area taxpayers as much as $50 million a year.
Beck and State Rep. B. Patrick Bauer (D-South Bend) offered a proposal to enable Lake and St. Joseph Counties to establish what are called Cultural, Recreational, and Educational Sustainment Areas. Unfortunately, the House majority rejected a plan to include the proposal in Senate Bill 566.
“The decision to pursue this idea comes from concerns expressed to me by local officials about the loss of revenue that will be coming when the 2008 exemptions from the property tax caps that were designed to help pay back debt service are lifted at the end of 2019,” Beck said. “While the funds to pay back the debt will no longer be there, the debt will be. Lake County has been paying off debt services stretching back a number of years.”
One means to provide those payments would come through the Cultural, Recreational, and Educational Sustainment Areas advocated by Beck. Her proposal would have enabled these areas to be established within a city or town in Lake County. All state retail income taxes would be collected separately and remitted back to the local entity, rather than turned over to the state.
“These would be similar to Professional Sports Development Areas (PSDA) that are now used in Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, and Evansville,” Beck said. “PSDAs distribute tens of millions of dollars to help support sports, entertainment, and economic development in those areas. Within Lake County, there are plenty of areas that could provide similar opportunities for innovation and improvement. All we wanted was the opportunity to give it a try.
“Through the revenue generated by these areas, we would be able to provide funding to pay the debt service,” she continued. “In addition, it is my belief that these areas can help spur economic development in Lake County by making them destinations that people want to visit regularly. That will provide the kind of funding that can benefit public safety, infrastructure and the general quality of life. Lake County would be able to use its own resources to benefit our area, rather than simply turning over money to the state that goes elsewhere.
“I am disappointed that there was little attention given to this innovative way to help pay down debt and encourage economic growth,” she continued. “We will raise this issue again because this crisis is coming and we are going to be scrambling to provide the necessary services that the people of Lake County deserve if we don’t have the appropriate funding.”